Op-Ed: MLS responds to meeting on Canso Spaceport

By By Steve Matier, Maritime Launch Services    

As some of you may be aware, there was a recent meeting in the area to discuss the proposed Canso Spaceport. Unfortunately, the meeting spread a great deal of misinformation that I’m hoping to correct.

Before I do that, though, a brief reminder of what the Canso Spaceport project is all about. Modern space exploration is much more than the International Space Station and a mission to Mars. Space is now an opportunity for business, specifically by launching satellites into orbit. As it turns out, Canso is one of the best places on Earth from which to launch satellites. It’s close to the ocean, with an excellent industrial base and skilled workforce nearby.

That’s why Maritime Launch Services came to Canso in the first place, over two years ago. Since then, we’ve completed/finalized our proposal to invest nearly $200 million in the area, creating good, long-term employment. Many of these jobs will require highly skilled professionals like electricians and pipe fitters, who will find work during the construction, commissioning, and operation of the spaceport.

We’ve seen the community support the project during their attendance at several open houses and informational meetings, and more recently, through the 753 signatures attached to a petition that was tabled by local MLA Lloyd Hines at the legislature in April. We’ve seen excitement grow and, recently, we’ve passed another milestone.

On June 4 of this year, the Nova Scotia Department of Environment approved the Canso Spaceport Project. In his letter to me, Minister Gordon Wilson wrote that he was satisfied “that any adverse effects or significant environmental effects of the undertaking can be adequately mitigated through compliance with the attached terms and conditions”.

If you had attended the recent meeting, you would have heard that some people were surprised to hear that the government is satisfied the project is safe. That, however, is the truth, based on objective science and facts.

There is much more work to be done. As the project is developed, Maritime Launch Services (MLS) will undertake the following (among other things):

 

  • Detailed plans for transporting and storing dangerous goods
  • Baseline and ongoing monitoring of water and impacts on land and sea wildlife
  • Contingency planning in the event of any accident, and associated clean up and remediation

 

These plans will be extremely comprehensive. Those hundreds of pages will be written by experts in the field and will be reviewed and approved by independent experts in various government agencies. The process has been, and will continue to be, scientific, thorough, and fair.

Sadly, for some critics a thorough, scientific, and fair process isn’t enough. They want to see this project stopped. They want to see investment disappear and potential jobs erased. They want to distort the facts and, in some cases, mask opinion and conjecture as fact. They are doing this based on ideology. Nothing more, nothing less.

Many of these critics have focused on the rockets we will be using and the fuels they will be using. The Cyclone 4M rocket is designed and built by Yuzhnoye State Design Office, a company with several decades of experience in the field and 5,000 employees. Yuzhnoye rockets have been used on missions to the International Space Station and the company has successfully launched 876 rockets. All of these launches are supported by a well-trained team of rocket scientists who are focused on the best possible design and manufacture of these rockets.

Contrary to what some have said, these are not “Cold War-era Russian rockets”. These are brand new Ukrainian rockets that are built from scratch each and every time. Yuzhnoye is also working with NASA on the Antares rocket, which is largely used to launch cargo to the International Space Station.

We will be using two different types of fuel. The first stage will use liquid oxygen and kerosene, while the second phase, when the rocket is high in the atmosphere, will use hypergolic fuel and oxidizer. Hypergolic fuels are used at spaceport facilities in the United States, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, among other countries. Like almost any chemical, it can be dangerous. As such, it is stored, transported, and used with the utmost caution, subject to all relevant government regulations.

In addition, MLS’s subcontractor, United PARADYNE Corporation (UPC), will be managing all the propellant activities at the Canso facility. UPC is the current manager of the world’s largest rocket fuel storage facility in the world where they manage, deliver, and often times fuel all of America’s space-lift missions.

As many know, the spaceport project will be the first of its kind in Canada. It will generate millions of dollars in economic activity in the area. It will create jobs and establish Canso as a world leader in commercial space development.

But it could all disappear if we allow fear and emotion to displace facts and science. Rest assured, Maritime Launch Services is following every applicable guideline, rule, regulation, and law as we develop this project. We will not cut any corners or look for any shortcuts. And we will be held accountable to the highest rigor and standards as set out by regulatory compliance requirements.

I believe this project has the potential to shape this region for years to come. I am more than willing to debate the facts and hear opposing views. What I’m not willing to do is allow deliberate misstatements of the facts to mislead people and raise concerns and fears that aren’t justified.

I look forward to the day when the people of Canso and the surrounding area draw the attention of the world to this beautiful corner of Nova Scotia. Canso has always been rich in history, and the spaceport will be another chapter in that long and proud story.

 

Steve Matier is the President and CEO of Maritime Launch Services. Steve spent 15 years working as an Engineering Manager for NASA with a focus on rocket design and testing.