Norway and the Netherlands share new twin satellites

Norway and the Netherlands will soon be in space with the twin satellites Huygens and Birkeland. The satellites have been developed and built through a collaboration between FFI and two Dutch research institutes (NLR and TNO), financed by the Dutch and Norwegian ministries of defence.

Researchers at FFI and the Dutch institutes TNO and Royal NLR have developed the nano satellites Huygens and Birkeland together with NanoAvionics. Photo: NanoAvionics.

The twin satellites form the most visible part of the MilSpace project. They will be controlled from FFI at Kjeller. When they are expected to be launched from Florida in December this year, they will be able to detect, classify and geolocate radars of interest very precisely. It includes navigation radars used on ships. Once the radars are operational, MilSpace will be able to detect them from its polar orbit.

Close cooperation

The satellites have been developed and built in close collaboration between Dutch and Norwegian researchers. Hence the names: Christiaan Huygens (born in 1629) was the Dutch mathematician and physicist who discovered the moon Titan and the Orion Nebula. Kristian Birkeland (1867) was the Norwegian physics professor who, among other things, did groundbreaking research on the northern lights.

First time

This is the first time that Norway and the Netherlands are launching a constellation of satellites that will fly together. This means that you gain experience with formation flying through the project. The two satellites will go into a polar "Low Earth Orbit (LEO)" with an altitude of 550 km.

They will move in the same track plan. The distance between them will vary throughout the mission. The antennas can cover any point on the earth's surface. It can happen at least four times per day. At higher latitudes, as many as 15 daily observations are possible. Solar panels will provide the ten-kilogram nanosatellites with the necessary energy.

50/50 ownership

Norwegian and Dutch researchers have collaborated on the project since 2017. The researchers have visited each other's institutes regularly. The SMART MilSpace2 system is half-owned by the Dutch Ministry of Defense and FFI, and the ownership agreement was signed last week at FFI.