Spaceport CEO presents to parliamentary committee

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – While work continues on a more detailed environmental report requested by the Province as part of its review process, proponents of the Canso Spaceport project had an opportunity to bring their plans before the parliamentary finance committee on Sept. 25 in Saint John, N.B. Maritime Launch Services CEO Steve Matier presented to the committee as part of its cross-Canada consultations in preparation for Budget 2019.

After explaining the site needs for the satellite launch operation, and how the Canso area meets those requirements, Matier told the parliamentarians that the growing space industry marks a new future for the area, and for Canada.

“The communities of Canso, Hazel Hill and Little Dover within the municipality played a vital role in Transatlantic cable communication over a hundred years ago, and are now at another key intersection for Canada,” he said.

“MLS recognizes that the commercial global satellite market needs additional reliable launch capacity in a trajectory that the eastern shore of Nova Scotia can provide.”

He encouraged the federal government to do more to support spaceport development in Canada.

“Building this infrastructure is the modern equivalent of building roads or railway spurs into rural and remote areas, connecting them to the global economy,” he said. “This backbone infrastructure is the basis for the launch vehicles and satellites that are needed in today's connected world.”

In an interview with The Journal Monday, Matier said work continues on the focus report, and he remains optimistic about the prospects for moving forward with the project.

“We’re certainly optimistic, when you look at all the layers of support we’re getting across the country from government agencies and others...At the end of the day we need additional launch capacity in North America,” he said.

“All we have to do is get the spaceport built; the rocket is basically ready.”

Getting it built means getting environmental approval from the Province, and securing a lease of the Dept. of Lands and Forestry lands at the chosen site.

He said there are now three start-up companies in Canada building rockets that they want to launch from the Canso Spaceport as well.

“They don’t compete with us, they complement us,” he said, noting the smaller satellite sizes these companies will launch.

“It’s really promising for the future. We just have to get through this (approval) process.”

He said the Canso Spaceport is also an ideal solution to the broadband challenge for rural Canada. With this infrastructure, it won’t “matter if there’s a snowstorm or wind storm, it’s broadcasting from space,” he said. “If you have a battery on your computer you can get on the Internet and call for help.”

Among vocal supporters of the project, Matier lists Cape Breton - Canso MP Rodger Cuzner, and former federal cabinet minister and Central Nova MP Peter MacKay.

He said they and others recognize that “now is the right time” for this project.

When asked about financing for the project, Matier acknowledges that the environmental assessment process set the project back a little. “But it didn’t stop us by any means,” he said.

“Getting the EA approval and getting the DNR lands are key milestones,” he said. “Investors are ready to go once these steps are completed.”

This past summer Matier moved his family to Nova Scotia from their home in New Mexico.