The Norwegian Mapping Authority's Geodetic Earth Observatory ranks as the northernmost facility of its kind.
The Norwegian Mapping Authority's Geodetic Earth Observatory, featuring a 20 meter radio telescope, was first established at Hamnerabben in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard in 1993. Construction of a new facility at Brandal a couple kilometers further north began in 2013, and the new observatory was officially opened in 2018. The new observatory will gradually be phased in, replacing the facility at Hamnerabben.
The new observatory - once fully operational - will be among a handful of the world’s first core sites within the Global Geodetic Observing System (GGOS), co-locating the four space geodetic techniques: Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR), Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite (DORIS).
As such, the observatory will be a fundamental part of a network of stations which define the global geodetic reference frame, and will be crucial to realise GGOS’s ambitious goals of 1 mm accuracy and 0.1 mm/yr stability.
The new observatory, which has an estimated cost of about NOK 300 million, features cutting-edge technology, including next-generation VGOS (VLBI Global Observing System), twin telescopes with fast-slewing antennas and a broadband (2-14 GHz) signal acquisition chain.
The telescopes, surrounded by the Brandal lagoon, Cape Mitra and Kings Fjord, are an impressive 13.2 meters in diameter and loom 18 meters above the ground.
The southernmost telescope has been operational since 2020. Work is currently ongoing to complete the installation of the signal acquisition chain in the other telescope.
Through an agreement between NASA and the Norwegian Mapping Authority, a state-of-the-art Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) facility will be constructed, and installed in Ny-Ålesund. This facility, with its location at a latitude of 79° N, will be important because it will allow us to observe polar-orbiting satellites, such as ICESat-2, with extremely good coverage. The installation in Ny-Ålesund is scheduled to start in 2022, and the SLR will be ready for operating by 2025.