Canso-Hazel Hill could host rocket launch pad

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – Is the Canso - Hazel Hill area the ideal spot in North America to launch rockets carrying satellites into space? A company based in New Mexico thinks it just might be.

Maritime Launch Services (MLS) is hosting an open house on Tuesday, January 31 at the Canso-Hazel Hill Fire Department Fire Hall to share their plans with local residents.

Steve Matier of MLS told The Journal on Tuesday that the company has been looking at different locations in Mexico, the United States and Canada, and thinks the Canso - Hazel Hill area has a lot of potential for a “space port” for launching satellites, including those used for telecommunications.

“There is access to the trajectory for putting a launch vehicle into space,” he said, noting the launch operation would be safe for the surrounding community, as a substantial buffer zone is required. “We’ve made application to DNR to lease a piece of Crown Land,” he said. There would be no need to expropriate any properties.

The open house is a key part of MLS’s efforts to determine if there is a good fit with the Canso - Hazel Hill area. “We want to meet with the fisheries association, the community, we want to meet with the First Nations,” Matier said.

“We’ll also need to engage provincially and federally,” he said, “but we need to make sure local community is on board first.”

MLS has been working with a launch vehicle manufacturer that is interested in breaking into the North American market, he said. “There is huge interest for this service.”

He said most or all of the launch ranges in North America now are federal ranges which are “dated and can’t handle a commercial load in a cost-effective manner, as a business would.”

“We’re in the process of doing the due diligence,” Matier said. The site was identified by working with Nova Scotia Business Inc. Matier said MLS also met with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.

They made site visits in March and Nov., 2016, and will make a third visit for the open house next week. He said they will have posterboards on display, with knowledgeable people on hand to explain various aspects of the project.

“We haven’t made our final (site) selection yet,” he said, “but we’re getting close.”

Site construction will have two major phases: the launch vehicle facility and a launch pad. Together the construction would cost about $100 million. Matier said that would take place in the first couple of years after environmental approval. Then various supports would be needed to operate the facility.

When not actively launching, 30 to 50 staff would be required, he said. The staff for launches will increase into the hundreds, and the tourism exposure from the launch would bring thousands into Nova Scotia, he said. “People would be able to see the rocket launch from the entire Eastern Shore to Halifax and further south.”

“There would be worldwide attention and interest for Canada’s first launch of a rocket in space.”