The 1920 Svalbard Treaty that recognizes the sovereignty of Norway over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard also stipulates its demilitarization and allows no facilities that can be used for “warlike purposes.” Norway's refusal to grant permission to use its coveted Svalbard satellite station marks the first case of its kind in over a decade.
The US and Turkey had hoped that their satellites could use the satellite station in Norway's Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic. Norwegian authorities, however, have rejected the request, explaining that they believe that the data collected by the satellites would mainly be used for military purposes.
This marks the first time in over ten years that the National Communications Authority (Nkom) has rejected an application to use the Svalsat satellite station on Svalbard. The US company has also been refused permission to use the Norwegian station Trollsat in Antarctica, which can also only be used for peaceful purposes. This refusal is the first of its kind.
According to Nkom, the Norwegian regulator, the US satellite EWS Rapid Revisit Optical Cloud Imager, RROCI, is funded by the US Air Force. The company that owns the satellite even stated on its website that its goal is the further development of military technology.
Nkom section manager Bent André Støyva described the case as “special”.
“You cannot use the ground station to send data to or read data from a satellite that functions specifically for military purposes. This is the reason why this satellite has been rejected,” Støyva explained to national broadcaster NRK.
The Svalbard satellite station or Svalsat is located on Platåberget near Longyearbyen. Opened in 1997, it is run by Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), a joint venture between Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace and the Norwegian Space Center (NSC). Svalsat and KSAT's Trollsat station in Antarctica are touted as the only ground stations that can see a low-altitude polar-orbiting satellite on every revolution as the earth rotates.
Its customers include the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The 1920 Svalbard Treaty that recognizes the sovereignty of Norway over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, at the time referred to as Spitsbergen, also regulates its demilitarization. Norway is therefore obliged not to create nor to allow the establishment of any facilities that be used for “warlike purposes.”