Infrastructure in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Overview of Kangerlussuaq

Kangerlussuaq International Airport

The history of Kangerlussuaq is closely tied to its international airport which plays the role of the main gateway for reaching Greenland. The history of the settlement is actively linked to the United States who are still physically present to support research activities funded by the National Science Foundation. The settlement has been founded to establish the base Bluie West-8 in 1941. In the aftermath of the second world war, Danish authorities took over the base but a bilateral treaty signed in 1952 returned the base to American military air forces. Finally, the Greenlandic Home Rule Government took over the base in the aftermath of the cold war.

Since then, the airport has been hosting international flights from Copenhagen and Iceland thanks to its 2810 airstrip. Even if new international airports will be built in Nuuk and Ilulissat, it seems that the Kangerlussuaq’s future is secured thanks to the US, Danish Air Forces with Rescue and Safety helicopters which decided to stay in Kangerlussuaq which is an ideal location for airport activities because of the favourable weather of the area. The combination of the airport with a secured future, the straightforward access to the ice sheet and the rich opportunities offered by the surroundings of the settlement are offering unique opportunities to establish a Greenlandic centre for natural science research related to climate change, and in fine developing a sustainable research production for the local community.

The ice sheet road

The main comparative advantage to research in Kangerlussuaq is getting straightforward access to the ice sheet through a road of 35 km. The road has been built by the German Volkswagen Group in 1999 from the town to point 660 and then extended with 120 km on the ice sheet to run a car test industry named Aurora. After the departure of Volkswagen in 2004, the Municipality of Qeqqata took over the road in order to keep this essential infrastructure for the tourism industry. However, the road became increasingly important for scientists who become progressively interesting in climate changes. Today, the road is appreciated by the research community and gives easier access to the ice sheet compared to Antarctica. Scientific projects are also possible alongside this road (especially related to the tundra, wildlife, Glaciers, lakes).

Arctic Circle Road

In 2021, a 150km long ATV track will be built by Qeqqata Kommunia between Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq. It will offer cheap opportunities to move between both towns by offering scientific opportunities with improved access to a larger area, especially the UNESCO World heritage: Aasivissuit-Nipisat. The road will also give independence to researchers who are today too dependent on airlines’ limited number of departures and the weather. In addition, such a road will give options for a diversified research industry in the region, with better access to communities located on the coasts from Kangerlussuaq. The Article Circle Road will be a new infrastructure connected to the ice sheet road which will improve the whole Kangerlussuaq’s road network outside the town – already the largest and most developed one of any towns in Greenland and develop in fine the integration of the region.

The town of Kangerlussuaq

Kangerlussuaq is a small settlement but provides all necessary services:

  • A grocery store: ISS
  • A gym offering swimming and fitness opportunities
  • A modest supermarket offering food, clothing and alcohol: Pilersuisoq
  • A bar-pizzeria: Nordlyset Pizzeria-Thai-Grillhouse
  • Some restaurants: restaurant Muskox in the airport, Roklubben along with the Lake Ferguson
  • Busses are available with a connection between the two parts of the town
  • Cabs are also available to move in the town (+299 84 12 26)
  • The municipal office is located just in front of the main KISS building

Oil can be purchased at a modest station around the airport

Kelly Ville or the Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Facility of Kangerlussuaq

The Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility, also named Kelly Ville, is located approximately 15 kilometres away from Kangerlussuaq. This base has been kept operational from 1983 to 2018 by the National Science Foundation and the Danish Meteorological Institute. This facility was “dedicated to scientific studies of the polar ionosphere and upper atmosphere” (signalization in situ) thanks to a lidar system allowing researchers reaching up to ninety kilometres altitude. The research station is equipped with a scatter radar initially designed to measure the effects of nuclear bombs on radio waves propagation in the South Pacific but it has finally been established in the Article circle area to measure the auroral cusp. Equipped with a parabolic dish of 32 meters, the radar has been supplemented by other scientific instruments (stable floor for optical benches, power capacity for additional equipment, etc.). The main topical areas of researchers were concerning:

  • Storms and substorms
  • Auroral boundaries and particle energetics
  • Middle atmosphere properties
  • Cloud studies
  • Electrodynamics and neutral dynamics

A list of publications using data from Sondrestrom can be found on

The research station was also supporting other instruments not involved in upper atmospheric research, with some instruments funded by US agencies and others from foreign institutions (mainly from Denmark, Germany and Luxemburg). The research facility is not used since 2018 and will be dismantled in 2022/2023. Possibilities to take over the building are existing, in collaboration with the Municipality.

Your research station

As a University or Research Institute, you have the option of using the KISS facilities, but you can also build your research station or rent a building for the purpose. According to the Municipal plan of Qeqqata Kommunia, several options are available for the research and test industry in Kangerlussuaq. (+map from municipal plan).

There are possibilities in the surroundings for building research facilities to the east near the ice sheet along the road to the ice cap (map from the municipal plan). West of Kangerlussuaq presents opportunities for building along the Nature Road to Sisimiut. A special possibility is available in Kellyville, where the radar of the Sondre Strom Research facility will be dismantled in 2022 if no one shows interest in securing the future of the facility. Qeqqata Kommunia takes over the five living houses and will transform them into a new combined research facility and school/research facility. Please contact Qeqqata Kommunia if you would like to take part


%d bloggers like this: