North

Private company looks to buy land for satellite farm in Inuvik

Inuvik could be home to a second satellite ground station if town council approves a land sale to a private company that wants to build a satellite farm.

506780 N.W.T. Ltd, wants to buy lot from Town of Inuvik for $86K

Tom Zubko, a contractor for 506780 N.W.T. Ltd, wants to purchase a 4.64 hectare lot of industrial land from the Town of Inuvik so it can build a satellite farm. (David Thurton/CBC)
Inuvik could be home to a second satellite ground station if town council approves a land sale to a private company that wants to build a satellite farm.

506780 N.W.T. Ltd, wants to purchase a 4.64 hectare lot of industrial land behind Airport Road from the Town of Inuvik for $86,300.

Tom Zubko, a contractor for the company, said in addition to access roads and electrical infrastructure, the company wants to build one large satellite dish and eight smaller ones.

If approved, it would be competing with the federal government's ground station, the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility.

"I think it's complementary. I think there's a place for government organizations to be dealing with foreign government organizations," said Zubko, who is also a contractor with the Inuvik Satellite Station, and president of northern telecommunications company New North Networks.

"But I think there's a requirement for other private companies to be brought in that maybe don't want to adhere to as high as an engineering standard or timelines."

Industry is changing

Zubko said the Inuvik Satellite Station doesn't allow clients to buy property, and that's hard for private operators who need land to secure loans with lenders.

An antennae at the Inuvik satellite station. (PrioraNet Canada)

He said the industry is changing: large government organizations, like NASA, aren't the only ones launching satellites into orbit.

"There's quite a bit more private capital going into space now than there was before and people with private capital in a commercial operation, you know they require different kinds of facilities,"

New startups, such as Planet Labs, are sending smaller and cheaper satellites into space, and Zubko said Inuvik needs to reflect that change when it comes to the size and cost of ground stations.

"They're building $100,000 satellites instead of $100 million satellites. The ground station is going to have to match that capability."

Zubko won't disclose many details about the land purchase, but he made his pitch to council on Monday night.

Councillor Steven Baryluk said he hoped this company's interest signified Inuvik is diversifying from a resource-based economy to a technology-based one.  

Council still has another round of debate before councillors approve or reject the land sale.

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