Maritime Launch Service to Host Suborbital Launch Attempt Next Month

Concrete pouring for the first launch pad on March 20, 2023. Credit: MLSi.

Maritime Launch Services (MLS) remains on track to offer a small rocket launch this year, its CEO said in a recent broadcast, but no updates were available yet on its licensing efforts.

MLS has a spaceport under construction in Canso, N.S., roughly three hours’ drive from Halifax, with the aim of bringing environmentally friendly rockets to orbit and suborbit in the near future. 

Years of work with the Government of Canada generated movement in late January with the Liberals’ announcement that they were prepared to issue launch licences on a “case-by-case” basis while updating the regulations for Canadian commercial space launches in the long term.

CEO Stephen Matier said the “support for regulatory launch” was a key milestone for MLS, in a Wednesday (June 21) discussion on stage with the Globe and Mail. But what he is really looking forward to is when the rules will be updated, a process that may take a few years to accomplish.

“Once we’re up and running [with] the 12 launches a year just with one vehicle, a medium-class launcher that we’re planning, [it] will bring $454 million per year,” he said of the economic impact. 

About $300 million will be specifically to Nova Scotia, with roughly 300 employees of MLS and “several thousand” indirect jobs in the economy, according numbers Matier provided on stage. “This waterfall effect, I think, is really tremendous,” he said.

No major updates were provided on the licensing process, which to be fair is still in the post-consultation stage, according to this Canadian Space Agency webpage

Key regulations to update in launching may include the Aeronautics Act from Transport Canada, the Radiocommunication Act from ISED (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada), the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act from Global Affairs Canada the Canadian Space Agency Act. Indigenous, environmental, defence and trade concerns will also be relevant, although they were not specifically mentioned on the CSA webpage.

Matier said it is important for Canada to have autonomous launch capability, as the country has been depending on access to space through the United States and Europe (principally) for decades. Canada used to have suborbital sounding rockets that mainly flew from the Churchill area for upper atmospheric studies, but no major space mission has launched anywhere in the country since the late 1990s.

Assuming that Canada can launch missions by itself, Matier said that some of the key government priorities in Earth monitoring would be good reason alone to send independent missions to space. He framed the opportunity as one to change the “relationship to the world we live in,” especially with accelerating climate change effects.

“Greenhouse gas, methane monitoring, global climate change and monitoring forest fires here recently, monitoring hurricanes, getting Internet and Wi-Fi in place during weather events [are] really key for our future, and really an important part for me. It’s about taking a small idea and turning it into a real opportunity for Canada,” he said.

The first university suborbital launch at Canso is expected next month, with York University, to do “concept of operations” or CONOPS ahead of a scheduled orbital launch in 2024. Assuming the first satellites deploy as planned, Matier plans a medium-class launcher next, but did not disclose a date in the talk.

One of the principal partnerships arising out of the Canso facility is with Reaction Dynamics, a Quebec company aiming to launch with an RE-201/2 hybrid rocket engine. It uses liquid and solid propulsion with an aim for generating less carbon dioxide than the competition.

Reaction Dynamics has a rocket under development, called Aurora, advertised as the first orbital-capable hybrid rocket. Aurora includes a patent-pending propulsion system that Reaction Dynamics says uses less liquid fuel than other rocket engines. Reaction Dynamics also has partnered with Precious Payload, which bills itself as a “digital service for engineering teams planning to launch their satellite” to match satellite makers with potential spots on rockets for access to orbit. Reaction Dynamics representatives have told SpaceQ this partnership is important since it will ensure launches run with no or little excess capacity, in vein with other environmental initiatives while also saving money.

About Elizabeth Howell

Is SpaceQ's Associate Editor as well as a business and science reporter, researcher and consultant. She recently received her Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota and is communications Instructor instructor at Algonquin College.

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