Maritime Launch Services gets environmental green light for Canso spaceport

CANSO: The company proposing Canada’s first spaceport near Canso received approval from the province’s Department of Environment.

Steve Matier, president and CEO of Martime Launch Services (MLS), plans to build the private, commercial rocket launch site and intends to send satellites into space for the use in near-earth imaging, communication, as well as scientific experiments.

“It’s an extremely important step for us. Without the environmental review approval, you can’t go forward with that location,” Matier told The Reporter. “At the end of the day, we can’t do anything without that approval from the Environment Minister, so it was an extremely critical milestone.”

Matier explained after submitting the original environmental assessment last June, and it going through its review cycle, the company had been working diligently on the focus report document since receiving the terms of reference for it in late September.

Environment minister Gordon Wilson’s approval comes on the heels of a request for a focus report from former environment minister Margaret Miller, in which she claimed the original environmental assessment didn’t provide sufficient information.

“Through the environmental assessment, I reviewed the information provided by the company and the comments from government experts and the public to come to this decision,” Wilson said in a written statement. “I am satisfied that the terms and conditions will protect the environment and the health and safety of people in the area.”

Wilson’s approval includes a number of terms and conditions, many of which must be met before the company can start building the facility. Among them MLS is required to; submit detailed transportation and handling procedures for all dangerous goods, submit an environmental protection, wildlife management and a fish and fish habitat assessment plans and by providing a plan for “worst case scenarios” including aborted or failed launches.

“We’re still working through the details and trying to understand all of the conditions,” Matier said. “But by-in-large most everything on the province’s list are things that you have to do as a responsible spaceport developer anyway.”

One major concern with the proposed spaceport was the use of and exposure to high vapour concentrations of hydrazines, which according to MLS’s focus report can cause convulsions or even death, while repeated exposures at a lower concentration can damage the liver and kidneys.

Matier indicated the company will continue its work with the Department of Lands and Forestry to complete the Crown Land Lease with a goal of a groundbreaking in July and significant construction getting underway early next spring.

“We can’t see any major construction activity or even cutting the road until after nesting season in the area, which runs through the end of August,” he said. “Ahead of all that we need to get the land lease completed, the design completed – we’d like to get the initial road work completed by the end of the year while the design team is finalizing their plans.”

The project would see MLS launch its first rocket by the end of 2021, while projecting a maximum of eight launches per year after that, sending commercial satellites into space.

Matier expressed his gratitude towards the outpouring of support from the community through their four open houses, their community liaison committee and being able to really be open about the potential problems and benefits of the project.

“Really that foundation is the key to this project going forward – because of the communities of Canso, Little Dover and Hazel Hill we’re where we’re at today.”