August 24, 2022 By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
GUYSBOROUGH — Maritime Launch Services Ltd. (MLS) announced the company has signed a Crown land lease on Aug. 18 with the province for land in the Canso/Dover/Hazel Hill area of Guysborough County.
The approximately 334.5 acres of Crown land is the proposed site for the first commercial spaceport in Canada. Stephen Matier, president and CEO, Maritime Launch Services, said, “Acquiring the land lease is a huge milestone for Maritime Launch and the development of Spaceport Nova Scotia.”
In an interview with The Journal on Aug. 19, Matier said the importance of the land lease couldn’t be overstated. “You can’t really have a rocket launch facility without having the land underneath it that you control… having the land lease completed is really key for us in moving forward to get the building activities underway.”
The lease granted to MLS for the purpose of developing a private commercial space launch site consisting of a horizontal integration facility, launch pad and related infrastructure to support launch activities is for a term of 20 years with an option to renew for an additional 20 years, if the company meets terms and conditions in the lease.
Matier told The Journal the company aims to secure the lease renewal when the time arises and has prepared and provided the government with a plan for returning the land at the end of the lease in a “condition acceptable to the province.”
With this latest milestone in approvals achieved, Matier is pleased to see the project move closer to construction and commissioning. He highlighted the significant potential of the initiative for Guysborough, Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada and Canada, at large, commenting that with multiple hundreds of billions of dollars a year in the commercial space business, the company is ready, “to really change the face of the commercial space industry and really provide significant opportunities for economic development.”
Matier added, “There will be jobs that will be opening up. We’ve already got some employment in the area, direct employment, and we’ll have more direct employment as soon as we are allowed to start construction.”
Preliminary work has been underway this summer on the site.
“The activity to date, as approved by the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, has been to go in and do the geotechnical work — which allowed us to put in the initial, call it logging roads, or rough roads; basically, to be able to get the equipment back there to do the rock and soil studies that are needed that will feed into the design that Stantec is doing for the rest of the facility. We’ll be looking to make some improvements on roads and get a basic footprint cleared for us to be able to work towards some of the construction activities. The amount of construction activity will really depend on where we are in that final design aspect of it because we’ve got to get design completed. We’ve got to get packages tendered and we’ve also lost a few months here,” said Matier, noting the company was hoping to have a more robust summer of construction activity on the site.
The company continues to work with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment to meet the conditions of the environmental asessment which received approval in June of 2019.
“Those conditions are what we have been working on and we’re expecting to get those finalized here in the very near term, so we can start formal construction activities,” said Matier.
Given the progress on the site to date, The Journal asked if the company was still projecting the first suborbital launch for summer 2023.
“We are working with our federal partners and provincial partners and our launch vehicle developer to put all those pieces together,” said Matier. “We have to do our due diligence in working with all the regulators involved. That’s really the best answer I can give you at this point. We are certainly working to finalize our agreement with the launch vehicle customer. So, until that really gets finalized… Only at that point can we really go back to the regulators to collaborate on the next steps.”
While the suborbital small class launch vehicle, Aurora is manufactured by the Quebec-based aerospace company Reaction Dynamics, the main launch vehicle for low-earth orbit, the Cyclone-4M rocket, is manufactured by Yuzhmash in Dnipro, Ukraine; a city that has been attacked by Russian forces since the war started in the region last February. The Journal asked Matier about the working relationship between MLS and their Ukrainian colleagues to which he replied, “We’re actively working with them and just held a design review with them earlier this week. So, things are certainly moving forward with them on a day-to-day basis.”
The Journal contacted the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables regarding the Crown land lease and received the following reply on Aug. 22: “We can confirm that we are working on a lease agreement with Maritime Launch Services. The Order in Council gives the department approval to issue a lease to this company — that does not mean the lease has been finalized. We cannot share any other specifics of the lease, including terms and conditions or remediation, until both parties finalize it.”