The Russian rocket that could be seen in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, was filmed by the Kjell Henriksen Observatory. Photo: Kjell Henriksen Observatory/UNIS

Russian military rocket created spectacular light show over Svalbard

The sky over the Norwegian Arctic archipelago was lit up by the military rocket that was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.
December 22, 2023


The rocket type Soyuz-2.1b was launched from Plesetsk around noon on the 21st of December and was few minutes later spotted on the sky over the Norwegian border town of Kirkenes.

“It looks as if the rocket and the carrier now separate,” a journalist from the local Sør-Varanger Avis reported.  

Shortly afterwards, the rocket created a spectacular light show over the far northern archipelago of Svalbard. The space installation was filmed by people working at the Kongsberg Satellite Service (KSAT). KSAT runs the Svalbard Satellite Station that includes more than 100 antennas placed on a mountain near the local town of Longyearbyen.

Russian rocket created extraordinary light phenomenon over Longyearbyen. Picture: screenshot of KSAT Facebook page

It is polar night at Svalbard and the space installation lit up the pitch dark sky. The photos show an object that casts rays of sharp light to the ground.

“Looks like Santa is out test-flying his sled,” a man jokes in a comment on KSAT’s Facebook page.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the rocket carried military “space installations.”

It is not clear where the remains of the carrier rocket and the space trash landed. But Russian authorities earlier this month issued Notice to Airman over major parts of the Barents Sea.


The rocket was also filmed by cameras operated by the Kjell Henriksen Observatory.

A Notice to Airman (NOTAM) issued by Russian authorities covers the last part of December and includes as area between Bear Island and Svalbard in Norway’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The notices are meant to warn aircraft and ships operating in the areas of rocket and missile splash-downs. 


Notice to Airman over big areas in the Barents Sea in connection with Russian rocket and missile shooting. Screenshot from


The Barents Observer has not been able to clarify if the Russian space trash actually landed in the area.

The Russians have also NOTAM for a large area north of the Kola Peninsula, as well as an area in the outer parts of the Varanger fjord. The latter NOTAM reads “Impact area for Russian missiles.”

Thursday’s rocket launch at Plesetsk was conducted with great pomp and fanfare. A big number of soldiers were on guard and paraded in front of military leaders. All of it carefully filmed and displayed to the public.


Soldiers in line ahead of rocket launch at Plesetsk on 21st of December. Photo:






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