“It clears the runway, if you will, for having a path to doing commercial launches from Canada,” Steve Matier, president and CEO of Maritime Launch Services (MLS), the company behind the Spaceport Nova Scotia project to be located near Canso, said of the federal announcement on Jan. 20 in support of commercial space launches in Canada.
“We’ve been working behind the scenes with a lot of people at Transport Canada in policy and safety for a number of years. But, to get to the point where they’ve unequivocally stated that they’re going to support a regulatory framework and pieces to make Canada a launching state, is really important for us clearly,” Matier told The Journal on the afternoon of the federal announcement.
Federal Minister of Transportation, Omar Alghabra, announced measures that will be taken in the interim and in the future to modernize and address all aspects associated with the emerging space launch industry.
Asked if MLS had been or would be consulted by the federal government on the regulatory framework, Matier said, “That is essentially what our first few launches are all about, to inform that process for them.
“They have been on the receiving end of rocket launches from other countries for years, whether its Russia or the U.S.; flying over Canadian territory and having to respond with air traffic changes or whatever it is. So, this is an opportunity for them to turn the tables, if you will, and be able to do our own launches,” said Matier.
During the announcement, livestreamed from Longueuil, Quebec, Alghabra said, “Commercial space launches are a natural evolution of space applications and exploration, and Canada is poised to bring its long history and world-leading reputation to this quickly growing field. Developing a commercial space launch regime for Canada will help make our space sector more competitive and will allow Canadian industry a greater market share of the global space economy.”
Federal Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry François-Philippe Champagne, who was in Halifax Nov. 2021 when MLS announced its first payload client, Nanoracks, said, “A long-term Canadian commercial space launch regulatory framework is key to maintaining Canada’s leading role in outer space exploration and development and represents an important evolution in Canada’s space activities. Canadian space launch capability will create lasting economic opportunity for the Canadian space sector, encourage innovation and research, and support national security.”
While not at the podium during Friday’s announcement, Spaceport Nova Scotia and MLS were mentioned by name. Matier said, “It’s an important today for us, clearly, with the very public embrace of commercial space launch for Canada at large. Our names were mentioned at the event of course, but it was a government announcement…and we were pleased just to be there…We’re delighted to hear what they said and be included along the way. We’re really grateful to them, humbled frankly, by the level of support from the province, from the Guysborough municipality, from the federal government – through all the various agencies and ministries that we’ve been working with here.”
During media questions after the announcement, Quebec MP and former Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau outlined the advantages Canada brings to the space launch industry. His comments may have surprised Canso-area residents who live near the proposed Spaceport Nova Scotia site.
Garneau said Canada was attractive due to its open territory, “Because you don’t want to do launches in places near populated centres. So, Canada offers a large country that is basically empty for the most part and surrounded by three oceans, which is also an advantage as well.”
Canso resident Marie Lumsden agrees that you don’t want to do launches in places near populated centres, and that is why she and other area residents have been vocal opponents of the Spaceport project since its inception.
In an email to The Journal, commenting on the federal announcement, Lumsden wrote, “Last week, our federal government confirmed what Action Against the Canso Spaceport [community group opposed to project] has known since 2019, no regulation exists either federally or provincially to assess commercial spaceports in Canada. Despite this, our dignitaries in Ottawa have announced that they will enable a facility like the proposed Canso spaceport because, as MP Marc Garneau puts it, Canada is “basically empty.” And so, this project has undergone a wholly inadequate class one provincial assessment – the minimal assessment done in Nova Scotia – by a department with absolutely no expertise or experience in the field, and in a regulatory vacuum.
“Maritime Launch intends to build a spaceport within two to three kilometres of local homes, in the middle of a wetland – a high traffic migratory bird stopover, within one kilometre of the Sable Wind Farm, within half a kilometre from a Park Reserve, less than three kilometres from our hospital and in conflict with a very lucrative fishery. The absurdity of this situation should be lost on no one. The complete disregard for the well-being of our community is appalling. This shameful and embarrassing chapter in our history is nothing to celebrate,” concluded Lumsden.
Federal measures announced on Jan. 20 in support of commercial space launches in Canada include:
• In the interim, which is expected to last three years, the Government of Canada intends to enable commercial space launch activities in Canada that are safe, secure and environmentally sustainable, under existing legislation and regulations, on a case-by-case basis.
• During the interim period, Transport Canada will work in close collaboration with other federal departments and agencies to develop robust regulatory requirements, safety standards and licensing conditions necessary for commercial space launch in Canada.
• In addition, the Minister of Transport will establish an interdepartmental review process to leverage expertise from other departments and agencies to ensure that any launch is considered and approved in a manner consistent with domestic legislation, international treaties and conventions, and national security and foreign policy interests of Canada.
By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jan 25, 2023 at 05:21