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KIRUNA, Sweden — The European Union wants to bolster its capacity to launch small satellites into space with a new launchpad in Arctic Sweden.

European officials and Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf inaugurated the EU’s first mainland orbital launch complex on Friday during a visit to Sweden by members of the European Commission, which is the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm.

The new facility at Esrange Space Center near the city of Kiruna should complement the EU’s current launching capabilities in French Guiana.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said small satellites are crucial to tracking natural disasters in real time and, in the light of Russia’s war in Ukraine, to help guarantee global security.

“Today, we know that the brave Ukrainian forces effectively use small satellites to track the movements of Russian troops,” she said.

The first satellite launch is expected next year.

The total number of satellites could reach 100,000 by 2040, compared with the current 5,000 operational satellites, according to the Swedish Space Corp., or SSC.

“This is a giant leap for SSC, for Sweden, for Europe and the rest of the world,” SSC chief executive Stefan Gardefjord said.

“Satellites are decisive for many functions of the daily lives of today’s modern world, and the need for them will only increase in the years to come with space playing an even more important role,” he said.

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