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Earth hurricane seen from ISS international space station. Photo: VTT

Finland's brightest new space innovations are taking off from Espoo


In Finnish new space technology, all eyes are on Espoo. The city is home to a world-class research centre, a space-tech incubator and a spectrum of highly innovative startups.

The players in Espoo's innovation ecosystem are igniting Finland's new space liftoff by taking 5G to space, developing state-of-the-art satellite technology, and providing modern positioning and geo-mapping solutions. 

Even though we call it space technology, new space solutions have plenty of use on planet earth. For instance, remote sensing is vital when locating and estimating the impact of environmental disasters like floods or forest fires. Satellite imagery makes it easier to monitor the global division of natural resources — and ultimately, climate change.  

Moreover, satellites equipped with 5G can provide trains, ships, and planes with connectivity everywhere: on land, at sea, and in the air. Not to mention the vast opportunities this technology provides for developing autonomous vehicles. However, transferring 5G to space requires intricate millimetre wave technology. 

Key players of Finland's new space development can be found in Espoo's innovation ecosystem

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is the Finnish pioneer in space technology. VTT participates in various space projects, yet its main strengths lie in nanosatellites, remote sensing, and 5G networks. For instance, VTT uses remote sensing to create global forestry maps, but it is also known for its record-breaking advancements in nanosatellite imaging technology.

Among VTT's most important partnerships is MilliLab, a 5G laboratory that the research centre runs with the European Space Agency (ESA). MilliLab caters to the needs of ESA by developing millimetre wave technology that is key in taking 5G to space.

ESA is not only present in Espoo through MilliLab, but its European Space Agency's Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) is also a valuable contributor to Espoo's new space development. Each year, ESA BIC picks a batch of young, promising startups and provides them with funding, mentoring, and matchmaking.

Aurora Propulsion Technologies, for example, is among the noteworthy alumni of the ESA BIC. Aurora develops a variety of solutions for CubeSats and nanosatellites, including thrusters and plasma brakes. Not to mention the world's smallest rocket engine, which is an Aurora innovation. Aurora Propulsion will launch its first CubeSat, AuroraSat-1, into space later this year. While demonstrating Aurora's cutting-edge technology, the satellite aims to remove space junk. 

Reaktor Space Lab, part of the Finnish IT, strategy, and design company Reaktor, is another crucial player in the nanosatellite industry. Reaktor Space Lab taps into the commercial opportunities of the new space industry — and helps its customers leverage them. In November 2018, Reaktor Space Lab launched the first Finnish commercial nanosatellite, with two more satellites scheduled for later in 2021.

ICEYE provides precise imagery of the earth from space. Satellites equipped with synthetic aperture radars, or SARs, enable the collection of reliable, real-time data. This data has proven to be extremely valuable when estimating the impact of natural disasters. In summer 2021, ICEYE was in a critical position when providing data on the flood situation in Germany

All in all, the new space industry brings various opportunities for businesses. And ultimately, new space technologies have the potential to solve some of the most burning challenges and make life better on earth. With the combination of highly innovative companies and world-class research, Espoo is at the forefront of Finland's new space development. 

Hero image: VTT

Espoo's key innovation players

Espoo-based companies and research organisations drive Finnish innovation. Here you find the key players that help you do sustainable business in Espoo and Finland.

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