Nova Scotia

Canso residents prepare for economic liftoff from proposed spaceport

Some residents are already making plans to cash in on proposed $100-million satellite launch facility.

Some residents already making plans to cash in on proposed $100-million satellite launch facility

Maritime Launch Services Ltd. plans to send Ukrainian-built Cyclone 4 rockets into orbit from Canso, N.S.. (Maritime Launch Services)

A company striving to build a rocket spaceport near the small Nova Scotia fishing community of Canso says local residents and businesses already have plans to capitalize on the aeronautical opportunity.

Maritime Launch Services plans to build a $100-million satellite launch facility about 2½ kilometres from the community, which is about 300 kilometres east of Halifax.

The project still needs to move through a series of regulatory hurdles before construction can begin, but company president Steve Matier said he's already heard "a lot" from residents.

One problem highlighted at a recent open house meeting was accommodations. The community has one motel, which is not nearly enough to handle the dozens of workers that could be hired or the countless tourists a rocket launch could attract.

"Some people said they're transforming a bedroom so that it's got its own bathroom, and walling rooms off and setting it up as a bed and breakfast," Matier said. 

You've heard of Airbnb, this is Aerospacebnb.

Regulatory hurdles

While there are detailed plans and timelines in place, nothing about the Maritime Launch Services proposal is fully confirmed.

Company officials will submit an environmental assessment to the provincial government in early 2018. It is being prepared by Strum Consulting, a Nova Scotia business.

If it's approved, Maritime Launch Services could begin construction as early as spring 2018.

There are also ongoing federal regulations that will track each step of the process throughout the spaceport's construction and up to the first launch. 

Ingrid Nickerson, the store manager of the Canso Co-op, says an influx of workers and tourists could boost her business. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Future landlords and innkeepers aren't the only ones planning to reap revenue from rocket scientists.

"Our overall sales are rather flat," said Ingrid Nickerson, the store manager of the Canso Co-op. "Hard to grow a business without more people coming in."

She said an influx of workers or tourists could boost the store's finances.

The Co-op recently expanded to stock lumber and building supplies — items newcomers might need if they're building or moving into new homes, Nickerson said.

Canso resident Philip MacKenzie hopes the project will bring more jobs to the community. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Canso resident Philip MacKenzie said these new workers and visitors offer the chance to expand the list of jobs available to locals. 

"Those people that are building those rockets, they are high-tech people," MacKenzie said.

"They are not going to sleep in a camper. They're gonna have people cooking for them, housecleaning for them. That's gonna provide more jobs here."

An updated proposed site map, showing a new access road, railway to transport the rocket and launch site near the coast. (Strum Consulting)

Nickerson added one more benefit.

"My daughter is at St. Francis Xavier University's science program," she said. "So she's really keen on this. You know, maybe she could work there."


Brett Ruskin


Brett Ruskin is a reporter and videojournalist covering everything from local breaking news to national issues. He's based in Halifax.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?