MLS approved to start construction of spaceport

·4 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – Maritime Launch Services (MLS), the company behind the Spaceport Nova Scotia project which proposes to build Canada’s first commercial rocket launch facility near Canso, announced on Aug. 29 they had received approval to begin construction.

Conditions to start construction, as outlined in the environmental assessment (EA) for the project, which was approved in June of 2019, have now been met, allowing the commencement of construction. Further conditions must be met, under the EA, for later phases of the project.

Stephen Matier, president and CEO of MLS, told The Journal on Aug. 29 that the company had received communication from the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment and Climate Change giving them the approval to move forward into the construction phase of the project.

Tracy Barron, media spokesperson for the department, told The Journal via email on Aug. 29, “Maritime Launch Services has satisfied the Environmental Assessment approval terms and conditions that were required for the project to begin construction. The company will be required to satisfy other terms and conditions throughout various stages of construction and operations.

“The company needs to speak to their project timelines. We will continue to hold the company to our environmental standards to ensure the environment remains protected,” wrote Barron.

Matier said of the approval, “The first thing is to take a step back and really appreciate what we’re doing and what we’ve been doing and working towards all these years as a team. We’re building Canada’s first ever commercial launch site. So, it’s domestic launch capability. This is a location that serves a market segment that our satellite clients internationally have really been looking forward to and anticipating. So, it’s a really momentous day for our satellite clients and the commercial space industry and for Canada as well as for Guysborough and the opportunity that comes along with being able to put satellites into orbit from Nova Scotia. This is really important for Nova Scotia for employment in the rural sector...Now we can really begin working closely with the satellite clients looking at the opportunities for launch service agreements, etc.”

In a news release issued Aug. 29 by MLS, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said, “This is a good day for Nova Scotia – particularly rural Nova Scotia – as Spaceport Nova Scotia will create many jobs, education and partnership opportunities while boosting the province’s economy … We’re proud to be a destination for the growing and competitive global commercial space industry.”

Last week, the company shared the news that the land lease with the province of Nova Scotia had been approved, a significant step forward for the company, which first proposed the spaceport project in 2017.

As the approval to begin construction comes in late summer, there’s not much time left in this construction season.

Matier said of the company’s plans for the next few months, “We’ve already done some of the geotechnical work on the site…from here then, we’ve got to mobilize…the initial stages or the remainder of this year will be to expand and build on those logging roads to get accessibility improved, get the areas cleared where we’re actually going to be building the buildings and put in the launch pad while we’re finishing off the design and then the major building construction activity will start as soon as the weather permits…We’ll go as hard and fast as we can into the fall but we can’t have huge expectations of pouring concrete in November or December that’s for sure.”

The employment opportunities created by the spaceport project will start to flow more noticeably with the start of construction, although MLS does have some employees on the ground already.

Matier said, “In this phase of construction phase, for the entirety of a medium class launch facility, construction is going to be well over a hundred people in and out of the project when we’re building, pouring concrete, putting in power and water—all the things that go into major construction activities. We’ll certainly be well over 100 people supporting that through the contractor that is doing the actual construction itself. That will of course roll over into an operations staff…which will be another 18 months or so down the road.”

Matier concluded his remarks to The Journal commenting on the support MLS has received from the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, in which the spaceport will be located, and the provincial government.

Reaction to the announcement on social media in the Canso area has been mixed. While many people are optimistic about employment and other opportunities the spaceport will create, others cite environmental and safety concerns.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal