60 Years of Space Research

For six decades, IRF has contributed to discoveries and progress in Swedish and international space research.

The Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) was founded in 1957 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences under the name Kiruna Geophysical Observatory (KGO). However measuring instruments have been located in Kiruna as far back as the late 1940s.

Operations in Uppsala started in 1952 under the name Uppsala Ionospheric Observatory, as one of the Swedish Defence Research Agency’s research stations, and were transferred to IRF in 1976. In Lund, IRF’s operations began in 1996. The Lycksele Jonospheric Observatory was also transferred to IRF in 1970.

In 1973 the institute became a governmental research institute and in 1987 the name was changed to the Swedish Institute of Space Physics.

KGO 1957. Photo: IRF

A partner for international cooperation

As early as 1968, the first IRF-built instrument was placed in orbit around the Earth on the European satellite ESRO-1. Since then, IRF has had Principal Investigator responsibility for over thirty research instruments on board satellites, including several on the first Swedish satellite, Viking, in 1986.

IRF’s first research instrument to another planet was sent to Mars on a Soviet space probe in 1988. Since then, the institute has had instruments in orbit around several other planets and objects in the solar system: Venus, the moon, Saturn and the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In 2018, instruments were sent to Mercury and in early 2019, an instrument from IRF, on board a Chinese spacecraft, landed on the far side of the moon.