CANSO: The company looking to develop Canada’s first spaceport filed their focus report on March 11 with the province’s environment department.
Maritime Launch Services (MLS) was required to complete the additional report following environment minister Margaret Miller’s findings of multiple deficiencies in its original environmental assessment, and she requested more information.
The 475-page report addresses the use of what the department calls highly toxic chemicals, the potential impact the project has on air, water, soil, humans, and wildlife, along with answering any question about worst-case scenarios. Among Miller’s concerns that were raised in August was MLS’s use of hydrazine related chemicals like the unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine, which is known in Russia as “Devil’s Breath,” and is commonly used in the second stage of the Ukrainian-built Cyclone 4M rockets.
But Steve Matier, president of MLS, said the chemicals have been used as fuel for many rockets and spacecraft including; NASA’s space shuttle, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsule, SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule, and the MAC-200 manufactured by Magellan Aerospace.
The focus report details the environmental impacts of launch failures under a variety of scenarios. Having a failure scenario on the launch pad at ground zero, the report advised, would spew debris in a 500-metre radius. As far as a failure just after launch – within the first 70 seconds after lift-off – the control system would terminate the engine and create a large crater up to 10 meters deep.
In MLS’ report spills, fires and explosions are all possible outcomes from accidents during payload processing of expendable launch vehicles and could produce severe injuries or even death, but it notes that a catastrophic accident of this type would be extremely unlikely. Even in the worst-case scenario, the public and the environment are protected, and there are no health impacts on personnel, the company maintained.
The project is anticipated to see one rocket launched in the first year, 2021, increasing to a maximum of eight launches per year by 2026. The total number of launches scheduled under the project from 2021-30 is 159.
Last week, MLS hosted an open house in Canso that drew over 150 participants. The company has yet to submit its environmental protection plan and spill contingency plan, and is working on developing a risk assessment for each potential scenario. The anticipated cost to build the facility is $200 million.
If all the regulatory hurdles are cleared, MLS expects to make an announcement to correspond with a ceremonial ground breaking in July.
The public is asked to make comments on the focus report until April 19, where it will then be reviewed by the regulators. After that, the environment department will have 25 days to make a recommendation to the minister.