Nova Scotia needs a spaceport
Flying stuff into space is getting cheaper, thanks to new companies getting in to the space-launch business.
And it may get even cheaper still, as company SpaceX recently launched and landed its first reused rocket.
Michael Byers, author of Who Owns the Arctic? and UBC Professor of International Relations argues Canada needs a spaceport, and Nova Scotia would be the perfect location.
Parts of Nova Scotia have been identified as good places for potential spaceports in the past, and one Halifax-based company has already applied for approval to build one. But Byers says SpaceX itself could be convinced to come north.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length
Some people may be familiar with your research on the arctic, why are you now interested in spaceports?
I'm interested in spaceports because space is incredibly important for the arctic. We use satellites to study sea ice in the arctic, to provide search and rescue, to do surveillance of foreign vessels and airplanes. In fact, Canada became the third country in space because of the arctic. We needed to have a satellite to broadcast the CBC to coast to coast to coast, back in the 1960s. We've played that part. Think of the Canadarm and Dextre, both of which are on the International Space Station today, and a lot of optical and other devices that sit on NASA probes that go and study other planets and asteroids. But apart from sending a few astronauts to go up to the ISS or on the space shuttle in a previous generation, we haven't actually taken that final step of having a spaceport ourselves.
Why does the world need a new spaceport?
What makes Nova Scotia such a great location?
Obviously if this goes ahead it would mean jobs for the local economy, but what would it mean for Canada as a whole to have its own spaceport?
It would mean that we'd be adding another dimension to our current involvement in space. We would become more of a complete space power. We would have opportunities that would come from that, people would think of Canada as a place they'd want to go to to work on space technologies. Nova Scotia would have a vibrant new economic centre. The good news about SpaceX and their Falcon 9 rockets is they use non-toxic fuel. There are some rockets that create environmental hazards, these particular rockets don't. And before you ask how much of a carbon footprint does a Falcon rocket have, it's about the same as flying on a Boeing or an Airbus from Vancouver to London. It's not insignificant, but we're launching satellites into space that fulfil very important needs for people here on Earth and these satellites drives the economy. It's not just someone going on vacation, it's a central part of what we'll be doing globally in the next century or five.
What are you recommending? How do we go about getting this spaceport process started?
We have an incredible advantage because a spaceport is infrastructure. And the federal minister in charge of infrastructure is the Transport Minister, and he just happens to be Marc Garneau. And Marc Garneau has been to space three times. He's also been the head of the Canadian Space Agency. And this is important, because Elon Musk will either know Marc Garneau or know of him. He will answer the phone call and they can have an informed conversation about what's involved. What are the parameters here. What does SpaceX need. What can SpaceX do for Canada. We couldn't imagine a better ambassador to negotiate a deal with the world's most dynamic, hard-nosed entrepreneur Elon Musk. And the Trudeau government is all about innovation, about taking Canada into the next century, to be a leader technologically. What better way to do that than climb aboard the space revolution with Elon Musk?