HELSINKI — Firefly Aerospace has entered an agreement to launch its Alpha rocket from the Esrange Space Centre in northern Sweden.

The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and U.S. space transportation company Firefly Aerospace announced a collaborative agreement June 27 for launches of Firefly’s Alpha rocket from Esrange spaceport starting in 2026.

Launches will take place at Esrange Launch Complex 3C. Pad modifications are already underway, according to SSC. The Swedish side and Firefly aim to support commercial, civil and defense customers.

“With the inaugural Alpha launch scheduled for 2026, the new complex will support commercial customers in the broader European market and enable tactically responsive space missions to further advance national security for NATO countries,” an SSC statement read.

Esrange has been operational since 1966. Its main role has been facilitating sounding rocket launches for microgravity and atmospheric research. It inaugurated expanded orbital launch facilities in January 2023. 

“We’re pleased to announce this historic collaboration that will have a huge impact on the global launch market, not least in Europe and the U.S.,” said Charlotta Sund, CEO at SSC. 

“Reducing the current gap of orbital launch sites in Europe, this collaboration strengthens the transatlantic link between Sweden and the U.S. whilst offering unique space capabilities for the Swedish NATO membership. We’re looking forward to releasing this competitive and well-proven launch service at Esrange in northern Europe.”

The announcement comes days after Firefly announced it would launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, rather than from Cape Canaveral as previously planned. Firefly also recently inked a multi-launch deal with Lockheed Martin through 2029.

“The future of spaceflight requires more orbital launch sites across the globe as we continue to see growing demand among domestic and international launch customers,” said Bill Weber, CEO at Firefly Aerospace, in a statement. 

“Firefly is incredibly humbled to partner with SSC and become the first U.S. company to launch from continental Europe. Together, we’re unlocking a long-awaited capability for the European satellite market, and we invite those waiting to fly with us on our flight-proven Alpha vehicle.”

Firefly is also set for its first launch since December early July 2 Eastern. Alpha will launch eight CubeSats for the ELaNA 43 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites 43) mission. The mission is part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI).

The late 2023 flight carried a Lockheed Martin technology demonstration payload. However the Alpha upper stage fail to relight. That stranded the satellite in an orbit which caused the spacecraft to reenter within several weeks. Alpha can carry up to 1,030 kilograms to low Earth orbit.

Last month SSC entered into an agreement with South Korean rocket company Perigee Aerospace. That agreement was SSC’s first orbital launch partnership. Perigee’s Blue Whale 1 rocket launch from Esrange starting in 2025.

Europe has orbital launch access via French Guiana, which hosts Ariane and Vega launches. But now Esrange and Andøya Spaceport in Norway are offering orbital launches from the European mainland. 

SaxaVord Spaceport, located in Scotland’s Shetland Islands, will also begin hosting orbital launches by German company Rocket Factory Augsburg.

Andrew Jones covers China's space industry for SpaceNews. Andrew has previously lived in China and reported from major space conferences there. Based in Helsinki, Finland, he has written for National Geographic, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, Sky...