A space talk with Rolf Skatteboe


Rolf Skatteboe is the CEO of Kongsberg Satellite Services and has been a member of Andøya Space’s Board of Directors since the 1990s. After stepping down from the Board, we wanted to talk with him about his experiences with Andøya Space and the Norwegian space industry.

How did you become involved with the space industry in the first place?

– I started in the Norwegian Space Agency working with the technical infrastructure of the Norwegian space sector, Skatteboe says.

He was tasked with obtaining an overview of the equipment and possibilities of the budding Norwegian space industry, and how it could be developed in cooperation with the European Space Agency, which Norway became a member of in 1986.

– This necessitated working closely together with the Director of Andøya Space at the time, Kolbjørn Adolfsen, Skatteboe says.

In the 1990s Skatteboe became the Norwegian Space Agency’s representative in the Board of Directors.

What are the main differences between now and then at Andøya Space and in the Norwegian space industry in general?

– Back then Andøya Space was named Andøya Rocket Range and was a foundation. Their main activities were launching sounding rockets for scientific purposes, says Skatteboe.

Over time, Andøya Rocket Range became a commercial company and additional activities were included on-site. Among these were the space education organization, Andøya Space Education, and the test range for defense missiles and aircraft, Andøya Space Defence.

– Since then, the Norwegian space industry has become larger and active in more space-related fields. This is partly due to an increased and society-wide use of satellite data, says Skatteboe.

– Nevertheless, launching sounding rockets has remained important for scientific research, and will continue to be important for basic research in the future, Skatteboe says.

What have been some of the most significant decisions in your time on the Board?

– One of the most important decisions was to expand Andøya Space’s launch capabilities of sounding rockets to Svalbard, with the first launch in 1997. The other most important decision was to build a launch base for lofting small satellites into orbit, Skatteboe says.

The latter was an idea that he and others worked on from the late 1990s, and which will continue to affect Andøya Space in the years ahead.

What advantages does the Norwegian space industry have, and how can we best use these?

– Due to Norway’s geographical location, we have a great advantage when it comes to launching satellites and other spacecraft into polar orbits, and communicating with them in these orbits, Skatteboe says.

The other great advantage Norway has is an entire value chain from developing satellites and spacecraft, to launching them and downlinking their information, to utilizing them for downstream products and services.

– The great possibilities for and potential in developing this national value chain for space is unique for a small country such as Norway, Skatteboe says.

How do you think the Norwegian and European space industry will develop in the next five years?

– Launching sounding rockets for scientific purposes has always been the core activity at Andøya Space and will continue to be an important activity for years ahead, but in larger and more comprehensive programs, says Skatteboe.

– However, commercial activity will become the most important for Andøya Space. Both satellite launches and technology testing will see significant growth, he says.

When it comes to other types of space activities, Skatteboe regards the potential for development to be very large, in a rapidly growing international market. Both in the development and launching of satellites, but also in creating products and services from satellite data, and from space science in general.

Do you have any advice for the remaining Board of Directors?

– I would remind them to keep considering the customers and to remain open for the commercial possibilities in the growing space market, Skatteboe says.

What will you be doing after you leave the Board?

– I will continue to develop Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), hopefully in close cooperation with Andøya Space and their launch capability for small satellites, Skatteboe says.

– The journey from Andøya Space being a small launch site with short chains of decision and mainly informal processes, to a company with the size and significance it has now, has been very interesting. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to have been part of this journey, Skatteboe concludes.

Photo of Rolf Skatteboe from KSAT: Marius Fiskum

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