Virtually all space companies launch their rockets from land based launch pads, as, from obvious reasons, land based infrastructure has the big advantage of easy accessibility. The launch of rockets – be it small or huge – demand a lot of surrounding space, and typically a large area has to be cleared of people prior to launch. This restricts rocket launch sites (spaceports) to military or otherwise controlled or uninhabited areas.
Very few spaceports are located in Northern Europe, as most areas are densely populated. We have considered established spaceports like Andøya Rocket Range in Norway, or Esrange in Sweden, but they are both very remote from our facilities in Copenhagen, and Esrange do not accommodate non-flight proven hardware.
In Denmark, the land based military controlled shooting ranges are far too small to fit our needs, though they are often used by amateur rocket clubs, launching sounding rockets to 1-4 km altitude.
This leaves Copenhagen Suborbitals with only one remaining realistic option – sea launch!
Though burdened with logistical impracticalities, sea launch also offers many advantages. Outside the national territorial waters – typically 12 nautical miles off the coast – things, as an example, get a lot simpler from a legal perspective.
Few landmasses on the planet are as empty as the open sea – and as easy to monitor. This makes the whole issue of range safety relatively simple compared to the conditions on land. For the same reason, most spaceports are located on a coastline. Finally – operating out of Copenhagen, Denmark – the logistic challenge of launching rockets from Sahara or some place in the Arctic is much larger than sailing a couple of hundred nautical miles out to sea.
As a result, in 2009, we decided to commit Copenhagen Suborbitals to sea launch.
ES D 138/139
Our primary launch area is the military firing practice areas ES D 138/ES D 139 in the Baltic Sea, east of Bornholm, Denmark. The combined area is approximate 70×35 km.
These areas are provided to us by the Admiral Danish Fleet for a specific time period (launch window), and with help from the Danish and Swedish authorities, the airspace above is closed for any traffic in the hours of the actual launch.
During launch campaigns, we operate from the town of Nexøe on the eastern coast of Bornholm, and the site is now known as Spaceport Nexøe.
To help us clear the area of fishermen and other vessels, we get help from the local Marine National Guard on Bornholm, typically by means of the MHV 903 Hjortø, which until the acquisition of our command ship Vostok, served as launch control center.
EK R 16
Though suitable for high altitude launches, operations from Spaceport Nexøe involves a lot of logistics and expenses. For minor launch operations, such as LES tests and 1/3 scale TDS launches, a better alternative is the EK R 16 shooting range in the bay of Sejerø, on the western coast of Sealand in Denmark. This area is only 100 km from our facilities in Copenhagen, and the area is approximate 6×14 km.
We have yet to try this area out, and as opposed to the remote offshore shooting ranges in the Baltic Sea, the EK R 16 area enables a direct sight possibility for spectators at the shore.