The BBC's April 26, 2023 Norway criticises Sweden's response after research rocket goes awry begins:

Sweden has got into hot water with Norway after one of its research rockets malfunctioned and landed in its neighbour's territory.

The rocket was launched at 07:20 local time (05:20 GMT) on Monday from the Esrange Space Center, before plunging into a Norwegian mountain range.

The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), which owns and runs the centre, has apologised and is investigating.

But Norwegian officials say Sweden failed to let them know formally.

"The ministry did not get formal notification, and when an incident like this happens across the border it's important that those responsible immediately inform the Norwegian authorities through proper channels," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Simenstad.

From the article, it seems that the facts include the following:

  1. A suborbital sounding rocket was launched as part of an EU-funded scientific mission. (launches like these are done all the time - it reaches space for a short time, takes some data, and then, like Richard Branson, falls back down to Earth).
  2. It went off course for some reason (this happens not infrequently in rocketry) and landed in "the neighbor's yard"
  3. They got in a helicopter and flew into the neighbor's yard and retrieved it.

Is Norway's complaint only that Sweden didn't make a formal report after the fact and make it through "proper channels"?

After reading the rest of the article I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out the exact transgression(s) here. Did Norway look out their window and see Sweden go into Norway's yard and pick up the rocket, and Sweden waved but didn't go up and ring the doorbell to explain exactly what happened?

Or is there more to the complaint? Were established EU international procedures (related to space and rockets or otherwise) not followed?

  • 1
    They did complain about potential contamination from rocket propellants (which as you well know aren’t usually the kindest of substances), as mentioned in the end of the article you cited Apr 27, 2023 at 0:03
  • 3
    Incidents like this always remind me of the (many) times Switzerland accidentally "invaded" Liechtenstein, like news.google.com/… or news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6415531.stm.
    – xLeitix
    Apr 27, 2023 at 12:41
  • 1
    Sweden and Norway both pranked their crisis teams responsible for Scandinavian-on-Scandinavian incidents. After all, they spend their day collecting taxpayer money doing nothing, munching donuts. Contrast the crisis teams facing East... Apr 27, 2023 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


Apparently the Swedish informed the local authorities in Norway, in the area in question, and perhaps even the Norwegian armed forces directly, but somehow not the national government, in particular the foreign ministry; from the article you've linked:

According to Esrange, Norway's armed forces and Swedish authorities were contacted shortly after the incident, and it followed the routines laid out for rocket launches after Monday's flight.

Local authorities in Malselv have told public broadcaster NRK they were told about the incident and asked if a helicopter could be sent to retrieve the rocket.

But Norway's foreign ministry has said it received no formal notification either of the rocket's landing or the recovery of its payload.

Reuters reported similarly:

In the event of any border violation, those responsible should immediately inform the relevant Norwegian authorities, which included the foreign ministry, through the right channels, the spokesperson said.

The ministry had not received a formal notification of the incident from the Swedish authorities, she added.

Work on Norwegian territory to salvage any wreckage also required prior consent, the spokesperson said.

The Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority, which probably should have cleared the recovery flight, might not have been notified until after the fact:

Norway's foreign ministry also noted that retrieval work was not supposed to begin without Norwegian authorisation, which had not been granted.

Norway's Civil Aviation Authority said it had learned of the crash from the Swedish Space Corporation's press release issued on Monday.

Norway and Sweden are part of the Nordic Passport Union, which might be tighter than Schengen, because (supposedly) one can "travel and reside in another Nordic country without any travel documentation (e.g. a passport or national identity card) or a residence permit". (TBH, that's marked with "citation needed" in Wikipedia, and the underlying treaty doesn't make that promise, so it might just be de facto practice in some areas. There's also an additional protocol, but not available in English.) But that probably doesn't cover flying across the border announced. Likewise they're both in ESA, but I suspect that [also] doesn't entitle recovery flights without some prior notification at national level. There's an EU/EEA initiative called "Single European Sky " but it's not a single EU-wide air traffic management system, although it does have a research component in that direction. (And yeah, Norway is not actually in the EU, only in the EEA. But it would probably make little difference in this case even if it was.)

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