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Swedish Institute of Space Physics


The Swedish Institute of Space Physics (Swedish: Institutet för rymdfysik, IRF) is a Swedish government agency. The institute's primary task is to carry out basic research, education and associated observatory activities in space physics, space technology and atmospheric physics.



The IRF was founded in 1957 and the first Kiruna-designed satellite experiment was launched in 1968. The institute has about one hundred employees and has its head office in Kiruna. Other offices are situated in Umeå, Uppsala and Lund.

IRF, originally the Kiruna Geophysical Observatory, began as a department within the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It has been a public research institute since 1973, under the auspices of the Swedish Ministry of Education and Culture.

Satellite experimentsEdit

Swedish Institute of Space Physics and
The Kiruna Space Campus

IRF participates in several international satellite projects. At present, data from satellite instruments are being analysed to help us better comprehend the plasma-physical processes in the solar wind and around comets and planets. For example, the Swedish Viking and Freja satellites, with equipment from IRF on board, have greatly increased our knowledge of the auroral processes in the Earth’s magnetosphere, as have the microsatellites Astrid 1 and 2, launched in 1995 and 1998. IRF's own nano-satellite Munin (at 6 kg (13 lb) the smallest-ever research satellite) was launched in 2000. An IRF-built instrument on board the Indian satellite Chandrayaan-1 (launched 2008) collected data from the moon and new techniques for making particle measurements in space were tested on the Swedish satellite mission Prisma (launched 2010). IRF has instruments on board the following on-going satellite projects:

  • Cassini (launched 1997), a combined NASA/ESA (European Space Agency) mission to Saturn and its moon Titan.
  • Cluster (2000) is an ESA project with 4 satellites in formation to study the Earth's magnetosphere.
  • Mars Express (2003) is an ESA mission to study Mars.
  • Rosetta (2004) is one of ESA's cornerstone projects and has been studying comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko since 2014. The mission is due to end in late September 2016.
  • Venus Express (2005) is an ESA satellite to study Venus and completed its mission in December 2014.
  • Swarm (2013) is an ESA project with 3 satellites to study the Earth's magnetic field.

Forthcoming satellite missions include:

Continuous measurementsEdit

Continuous measurements of the following are made at IRF

  • the magnetic field of the Earth
  • aurora
  • cosmic radio noise
  • ionospheric parameters

Ground-based auroral researchEdit

Experiments are conducted with research radars, such as those of the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association (EISCAT) with transmitters in Tromsø and on Svalbard. These are used for example to study the processes which cause the aurora. The three-dimensional structure of the aurora is studied with ALIS (Auroral Large Imaging System), a multi-station imaging system which uses tomographic reconstruction techniques, artificial intelligence and advanced IT.

Atmospheric researchEdit

Atmospheric research at IRF focuses on studies of

  • ozone in the stratosphere
  • strato- and mesospheric clouds
  • strato- and mesospheric winds
  • coupling between different atmospheric layers (e.g. transport between troposphere and stratosphere) - propagation of mechanical waves

Radar, optical methods, sounding rockets and balloons are used for atmospheric studies. Continuous measurements are made of:

  • atmospheric trace gases (including ozone)
  • atmospheric winds
  • infrasonic waves.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit