This week in space for Canada is focused on a rather interesting article by Peter Rakobowchuk of the Canadian Press that initially showed up Sunday in partial form under the title “Space Agency eyes Cape Breton for satellite launch” on the CTV news website. Since then, the story and the internet buzz have both continued to grow.
The completed article, as of today at least, quotes Eric Dubuc, a technology development manager at the Canadian Space Agency, and indicates that preliminary studies by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) on both Canadian launch facilities and potential vehicle configurations were begun as early as 2008. His comments likely refer to a series of CSA requests for proposals (RFP’s) which were issued starting in 2008 and discussed by Marc Boucher in the article “A Rocket to Call Our Own? Canadian Space Agency Explores the Business Case” published December 14th, 2009 on SpaceRef.ca.
According to the SpaceRef article, the initial RFP was a 2008 pre-feasibility study which indicated that developing a Canadian based micro launcher system was feasible (if challenging) although many of the obvious questions arising out of the report were left unanswered. The two follow-on studies focused primarily on those unanswered questions with assessments of the worldwide micro satellite market and national objectives (such as arctic sovereignty or economic development) that could reasonably be addressed through the creation of a Canadian launch capability. The recent RFP whose report was due by the end of February is however not available to the public.
Although Cape Breton receives top billing as the logical location for a Canadian spaceport, Churchill, Manitoba is also mentioned. Given that the world’s second busiest spaceport (the Plesetsk Cosmodrome) is at roughly the latitude of Yellowknife and the busiest (Baikonur) is at roughly the latitude of Toronto, it’s safe to assume that pretty much anywhere in Canada has the potential for being a spaceport, although launch sites located in higher latitudes would likely only be useful for higher-inclination orbits without the use of a propellant-intensive “dogleg maneuver“.
So maybe Cape Breton is the logical choice given it’s reasonably southern location.
On the other hand, many satellites launch into high-inclination orbits, especially those used for Earth monitoring missions, as they see the Sun from the same direction and the entire Earth from pole to pole each orbit, which is quite useful for monitoring our arctic. High-inclination orbits could also end up being the preferred for orbital space tourism which, in the absence of an obvious destination, will likely put a premium on the view.
So maybe Churchill has the advantage after all.
The launch vehicle could be a variation of the Bristol Aerospace Black Brant series, first produced in 1961 and one of the most popular sounding rockets ever built, although it’s likely that other options are also on the table.
It will be interesting to see where this news report takes us next week in space for Canada especially given the speed at which private and public spaceports and indigenous launch capabilities are sprouting elsewhere.
Does Canada need it’s own indigenous launch capability?
Edited by Marc Boucher