Rocket team visits launch site

By Helen Murphy    

CANSO – When you go beyond a map and actually get your feet on the ground, that’s when you learn exactly where the bog is.

This was one of the key pieces of information that proponents of a spaceport for the Canso, Hazel Hill and Little Dover area discovered during a late-April site visit.

Representatives of Maritime Launch Services (MLS) and engineers from the Ukrainian builder of the Cyclone 4M orbital rocket spent a week in our area as part of their work to establish a spaceport in the District of Guysborough for the launch of commercial satellites into space.

The project proponents walked into the isolated wooded area selected for the launch facility, where ATV trails run nearby. MODG had several ATVs on standby in case of any emergency during the visit.

According to MLS President Steve Matier, they found some of the ground underfoot “very springy.”

The bog in the area was a concern for construction, he said, but only 100 feet away they found higher ground. So they’ll make minor adjustments to their site plans to build on this more suitable spot.

Later the team toured the launch area by boat. Matier said this was the best way to get a good look at the site, because of mud in the area.

“The launch pad site looks great,” he said. “No problem there.”

MLS also met with the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association. Discussion with GCIFA leaders went “extremely well”, said Matier, with “a lot of good questions” addressed.

The rocket is to be shipped from the Ukraine by water and the rocket manufacturer is hopeful their vessel can dock in Canso. However representatives are looking at a back-up plan, and met with Tim Gilfoy, CEO of the Strait of Canso Superport, to discuss the possibility of having their ship dock there if necessary.

The team’s visit included an Antigonish open house for businesses that may be interested in providing products and services to the project. The event was a “fantastic” success, according to Matier. He told The Journal more than 70 people came out to meet with MLS officials. Most were from the local area, with a few from Halifax.

Matier described the overall visit as “very productive” with “no show-stoppers at all.”

Next steps include design work for the site layout and regulatory approvals, including a wetland study.