It is rocket science: New details revealed about proposed space port in Nova Scotia

Documents obtained by CBC News reveal new details about a proposed rocket launch facility near Canso, N.S., including plans for a control centre and launch pad, separated by a 2.5-kilometre custom rail track.

Rockets shipped from Ukraine, barged from Mulgrave, trucked from Canso and railed along custom track

Map based on the proposal submitted to the Nova Scotia government by Maritime Launch Services Ltd. The company has applied to lease provincial land to develop a commercial space port. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

A company with plans to launch rockets from Nova Scotia has applied to lease 15 hectares of provincially owned land outside Canso, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

Maritime Launch Services hopes to build a 10- to 15-metre-tall control centre and rocket assembly area.

Approximately 2.6 kilometres away, it plans to build a launch pad. Between the two sites, the company said it intends to construct a custom rail system to transport and position the rocket for liftoff.

The details are outlined in the company's land lease application, submitted late last year to the provincial Department of Natural Resources.

Boats, barges, trucks and trains

The 272-tonne rockets will be constructed in Ukraine.

They "will be prepared for shipment in Ukraine, loaded aboard a RoRo (Roll-On, Roll-Off) vessel and carried across the North Atlantic for delivery to the Port of Mulgrave and then barged to the Port of Canso as regulated by Transport Canada marine security requirement," according to documents submitted to the province.

The rockets would be in at least three segments when they arrive in Canso on the northeastern tip of mainland Nova Scotia.

Each piece would be trucked to the assembly site and then placed on "a specialized transporter/erector that delivers the launch vehicle to the launch pad via a rail system."

The smell of rocket fuel in the morning

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

The documents said most of the launches would occur between 7 a.m. and noon, the company's documents said. At least two weeks notice would be given to regulators and the public prior to each launch.

Each launch trajectory would be southward.

If a failure occurs in the first stage of the launch, the company said there is a 99.7 per cent chance debris would land in the ocean.

"In terms of impact, for a normal trajectory, there would be no overflight of populated areas," the documents said.

Skyrocketing demand

The main purpose of the proposed launch site would be to deliver medium-sized satellites into orbit — a service that is in high demand, the company said.

"This is especially true for internet-related developments and more precise information (agronomic, economic, meterological, hydrological, etc.)," the documents said.

The type of orbits available to satellites launched from Nova Scotia are conducive to taking high-resolution images of the planet's surface or performing climatic measurements.

Not ready for liftoff yet

In addition to the 18-month construction process, Maritime Launch Services is still seeking a number of regulatory approvals.

It will need an environmental assessment, as well as approval from the Department of Natural Resources, Transport Canada and other governmental bodies.

If the company does not hit substantial setbacks, it hopes to launch its first rocket in fall 2019. By 2022, the company plans to launch up to eight rockets annually.

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About the Author

Brett Ruskin


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