Ottawa to develop regulations for space launches from Canso

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Transport Canada is developing a modern regulatory regime for commercial space launch that will accommodate a proposed facility outside Canso.

At a news conference in Montreal on Friday, federal Transport Minister Omar Algabrah was joined by Canadian Space Agency president Lisa Campbell and science and industry minister Francois-Philippe Champagne to announce the development of the regulations and to champion Canada’s development of a domestic launch capability.

“Commercial space launches are a natural evolution of space applications and exploration, and Canada is poised to bring its long history and world-leading reputation to this quickly growing field,” said Algabrah.

“Developing a commercial space launch regime for Canada will help make our space sector more competitive and will allow Canadian industry a greater market share of the global space economy.”

The only proposed commercial space launch project in Canada is the one planned by Maritime Launch Services for outside Canso in Guysborough County.

“Enabling commercial launch from Canada will allow our sector to capture a share of the growing global space launch market,” said CSA president Lisa Campbell.

“Space launch will increase Canada’s domestic capability and cover the full life cycle of space missions.”

Existing legislation ‘dated’

Steve Matier, president of proponent Maritime Launch Services, was in Montreal for the announcement.

“It makes all the difference when you’re wanting to launch rockets into orbit from a country, you need a regulatory framework to do that,” said Matier.

“There is existing legislation that is quite dated that we will use in the short term. They are not holding us up, (the federal government is) working with us while they’re working on a broader regulatory framework for the future.”

While it develops a new regulatory regime over the next three years, Transport Canada will use existing regulations dating back to Canada’s only other space launch site that operated in Churchill, Man., during the 1970s. Launches will be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Maritime Launch Services is currently putting a road into the site on Crown land outside Canso for which it has a long-term lease. That lease, along with permitting to begin construction, were approved by the provincial government last August.


Maritime Launch Services is proposing to use a Ukrainian-built Cyclone 4M rocket at its proposed launch site in Guysborough County.
 - Contributed
Maritime Launch Services is proposing to use a Ukrainian-built Cyclone 4M rocket at its proposed launch site in Guysborough County. – Contributed

Design work continues

Matier said Tuesday that design work continues on the launch facility and associated buildings and the intention is to begin construction this coming season.

Without a completed design, Matier said he couldn’t estimate a cost.

Previous estimates made by Maritime Launch in 2021 put the project cost at about $210 million.

Asked about financing, Matier would only say, “we’re in a very comfortable position with the construction financing we have now.”

Asked about whether they would seek government funding, Matier said, “we would not turn down federal funding if it comes our way, whether in a grant or loan.”

The facility proposes to send Ukrainian-made Cyclone 4M rockets capable of carrying five tons of cargo into low Earth orbit. The rockets are designed and built in the city of Dnipro, which has been targeted by Russian strikes during its invasion of Ukraine.

Matier responded to questions about the availability of the rockets by pointing the company having been able to supply stages for a rocket launch in the United States last November.

“Things are moving forward. We certainly have been working with them on a day-in, day-out basis,” said Matier.

“We, like them, have contingency plans for production of the components and for different vehicles even from different sources.”

While the facility has had strong support from the Municipality of District of Guysborough, it has been opposed by a concerned citizens group Action Against Canso Spaceport.

In response to the announcement by Transport Canada, the group posted the following statement on its Facebook page, “Great to see confirmed what we’ve been saying all along: our government has no regulation for spaceports, including the facility proposed to be built within 2 km of our community, within 1 km of a windfarm, within ½ km of a park reserve, 4 km of a protected wilderness area, in the middle of a wetland, and in conflict with a multi-million dollar fishery. MLS has spent the last seven years lobbying for the taxpayers dime and a little more than ½ km of unfinish access road on municipal property to show for it.”

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