Esrange Rocket Shelters – Esrange, Sweden - Atlas Obscura

Esrange Rocket Shelters

Esrange, Sweden

The wilderness of northern Sweden is full of shelters to protect people from sounding rockets returning from space. 


The Esrange Space Center, run by the SSC (the Swedish Space Corporation), is located outside of Kiruna in the northernmost part of Sweden. The land north of it is a huge diamond-shaped area virtually uninhabited by humans. The vast and desolate wasteland makes it the ideal impact area for sounding rockets.

Sounding rockets, also called research rockets, are launched into space in an elliptic trajectory where they experience a few minutes of microgravity, or weightlessness. This is useful for scientific experiments that need to be conducted without the influence of gravity, especially if they need to be recovered quickly.

There’s just one catch: Whatever goes up must come down, including the sounding rockets. Although the impact area is uninhabited, there are 34 shelters spread out for the occasional berry picker or hiker who happens to be there when the rocket descends.

This scenario shouldn’t happen, though, since all launches are announced online and on the radio, and the roads leading in to the area are closed. But the shelters are there just in case. They are spartan but are equipped with a heater for winter and a radio to receive any message of danger being broadcast from Esrange. So if sounding rockets returning from space start falling from the sky, at least you’d know why.

Know Before You Go

The Esrange Space Center's shelters are spread out throughout the wilderness of northern Sweden. You can check the SSC homepage for the exact coordinates.

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