MLS chooses Hazel Hill site for proposed launch complex

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – A company looking to develop a commercial operation to launch satellites into space looked at 14 potential sites in North America and Tuesday, March 14, it announced its final selection is a site near Canso and Hazel Hill.

If the project goes ahead, the site “would host a commercial launch complex for the Cyclone 4M orbital launch vehicle from Ukraine,” Maritime Launch Services (MLS) said in a news release. “The criteria evaluated through the study included access to polar/sun synchronous orbit, very low population density, proximity to multimodal transportation, and interest from the community, province and government.”

MLS held an open house about the proposed project at the Canso Fire Hall on January 31 with more than 140 people in attendance.

“We are pleased that Maritime Launch Services has chosen to invest in our community and we look forward to continued dialogue,” said Guysborough Warden Vernon Pitts in the release. “Since we were first introduced to this development a few months ago we have been impressed with the proponents’ approach, and we will continue to work collaboratively with MLS as the project evolves.”

The company held various meetings in Nova Scotia and Ottawa recently that resulted in the site selection final decision. MLS said factors included “enthusiastic support from the community, academia and multiple levels of provincial and federal government.”

John Isella, CEO of MLS, said, “While we have a number of challenges ahead to work through the regulatory processes, approvals and site planning, we are optimistic that we can break ground on the launch complex within a year and meet market demands with our first launch in 2020.” MLS plans to achieve a launch rate of eight per year by 2022.

“We’re doing our due diligence,” Warden Pitts told The Journal during an interview. “We expect some kind of community liaison committee to be established to keep people up to date down the road about this proposal.”

When asked by The Journal about the transport of rocket launch fuel to the site, MLS spokesperson Steve Matier said the fuels will come by ship. “It is worth pointing out that the gasoline used in cars that is transported by truck to gas stations is more flammable/dangerous than the kerosene we will use,” he said. “The liquid oxygen is produced in province and is already carried over the road in trucks for hospitals and other applications. We would use what is already being done for that.”

With the growing global demand for space launch services, MLS said it will bring the mature space launch technology of companies in Ukraine to Nova Scotia. “The timing is perfect for this venture,” said Isella. “Ukraine’s independent space industry, and the solid market for these launch services all add to our confidence in this program. The Cyclone 4M rocket will become the standard of the medium class space launch industry.”

Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash in Ukraine, the providers of the launch vehicle, have been in operation for 62 years, launched 875 rockets, and built and launched over 400 spacecraft.

Initial funding was obtained in 2016 from United PARADYNE Corporation (UPC) in Santa Maria, CA. Mr. Joe Hasay, President/CEO of UPC, said, “This program is just what UPC has been seeking in order to expand into commercial space launch operations.” UPC is a founding partner in MLS, and is expected to bring extensive experience to launch site operations and satellite customer support.

Maritime Launch Services Ltd. is a Canadian company planning to establish a permanent office in Halifax in the coming months. It will be lead by Matier as head of spaceport development. The three associate companies that formed MLS includes Matier’s independent engineering consultancy in New Mexico.