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On a chain of islands located closer to the North Pole than to Norway, the Svalbard Satellite Station offers a unique connection between Norway and the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Norwegian Ambassador Touring USGS EROS
Norwegian Ambassador, Anniken Krutnes, learns about the Landsat Satellite Program history on a tour of USGS EROS.

To explore that link, the Norwegian Ambassador to the United States, Anniken Ramberg Krutnes, recently visited the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  

The Svalbard Satellite Station is located on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, which helps support satellites in the USGS National Land Imaging Program.

SvalSat, as it is also known, is an extensive satellite ground station located just 1,200 kilometers south of the North Pole. Established in 1996, SvalSat is the northernmost satellite station in the world and the only commercial ground station that can support polar orbiting satellites every time they orbit the Earth, about 14 passes per day. 

The station tracks the Landsat satellites that are a part of an Earth observing partnership between the USGS and NASA which have created the longest space-based record of Earth’s surface for the last 52 years. 

“Important work is being done here [at EROS], very important work. I’m just fascinated by it,” said Ambassador Krutnes. “I was unaware there was an archive [Landsat] with images of land so far back.” 

Norwegian Ambassador overlooking the Landsat Satellite Receiving Antenna
The Norwegian Ambassador overlooks the radome that houses the Landsat receiving antenna at EROS.
Image to the right: The SvalSat facility in Svalbard, Norway. The facility supports both the Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 missions.

The Landsat antenna was the first in a field of antennae receiving signals from multiple satellites that now number more than 150 at SvalSat. From their orbits 438 miles high, sensors on Landsat 8 and Landsat 9 send data down to Svalbard, EROS and other antennas worldwide that transfer all the data to EROS for processing, storage and distribution.

The data is transmitted from the satellites to the Svalbard antennas to provide essential data for studying Earth and various impacts to it such as climate change.

“It is so important to understand our planet,” said Ambassador Krutnes. “We [Norwegians] always say that any decisions we make should be based on the best available science. Having this information—being able to see how Earth is changing will help us in our decision making, which remains a top priority.” 

The Ambassador’s tour to the region also included various stops throughout South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota, all known for their Norwegian heritage.

Norwegian Ambassador visit to USGS EROS
Group photo during the Norwegian Ambassador's visit to EROS.
The Svalbard (SGS) Ground Station for the Landsat Program

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