Canada is Finally Getting Its First Spaceport

Image: NASA/Sandra Joseph and Kevin O’Connell

Halifax-based Maritime Launch Services has confirmed its plans to build a $148-million rocket spaceport near Canso, Nova Scotia. Scheduled for completion in 2020, it’ll be Canada’s first and only site where rockets can be launched into orbit.

In a joint venture with several US firms, Maritime Launch Services (MLS) is building Canada’s first spaceport. At a total cost of $304 million—a figure that includes the cost of the first rocket launch and promotional expenses—the launch pad is slated to deliver commercial satellites to low Earth orbit aboard Ukrainian-built rockets on a due south trajectory, and at a cost of $60 million per launch. The company would like to launch as many as eight rockets per year starting in 2022.

The location of Canso, Nova Scotia. (Image: Google Maps)

The facility will include a launch pad, a processing building, and a control center positioned about 2 miles (3 km) away. MLS will be purchasing 7,400-pound (3,350-kg) Cyclone 4 rockets from the Ukrainian manufacturer Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash. This company has been building rockets for over six decades, and has produced more than 400 spacecraft. Cyclone launchers have been in development since 1968, and are considered extremely reliable. By choosing such a well-established provider and rocket, the company feels it’s “mitigating its risks.”

Canso was selected by a team of American aerospace experts from 14 different candidate sites. It was chosen for its ideal access to a synchronous orbit, the area’s low population density, its proximity to transportation hubs, and because of the province’s enthusiasm from the project. MLS says it won’t need any financial assistance from the government.

A poorly rendered illustration of the Cyclone 4 rocket. Let’s hope this launch vehicle performs better than the company’s graphic designers. (Image: Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash)

Employment in Nova Scotia has taken a hit recently, with downturns in the forestry and fisheries sector. The province’s Natural Resources Minister said the project “will provide good paying jobs for people in these rural areas and to halt the out-migration that has victimized the province for some decades.” Construction of the facility will require at least 150 workers. Once complete, 30 to 50 employees will be needed to maintain operations.

The new spaceport is a big deal for Ukraine, as well. The country, mired in an economic crisis, has been searching for a foreign partner for its Cyclone 4 launch vehicles over the past several months.


In addition to bringing in jobs, the spaceport is expected to draw tourists. Rocket launches will be visible for a good distance along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia.

[CBC News]


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George Dvorsky

George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.