GUYSBOROUGH – Last Wednesday, April 27, Maritime Launch Services (MLS), the company behind the proposed rocket launch facility in Canso, announced its debut on the NEO -- Canada’s Tier 1 stock exchange for the innovation economy.
In a media release, MLS CEO Steve Matier said, “Our NEO listing is a key building block to our plans to acquire a share of the massive commercial space industry market. Like NEO, we are driven to meeting the needs of our clients with unwavering dedication to delivering exceptional service … Today’s listing means Maritime Launch will have greater access to a diverse mix of equity investors and financing partners as we develop Spaceport Nova Scotia and attract and retain great talent.”
In an interview with The Journal on Thursday, April 28, Matier said of the announcement: “Delighted to reach this milestone. It’s incredible for us. Happy to be in a position to have more participation from across Canada in being a part of this significant opportunity to bring space launch to Canada for the first time ever.”
During the interview, The Journal asked Matier for an update on the project’s progress overall and about the impact the war in Ukraine might have on the project.
War in Ukraine
MLS partner company Yuzmash is located near the city of Dnipro in Ukraine. Previously this newspaper has reported on the situation in Dnipro regarding the Yuzmash factory where the Cyclone 4M medium class launch vehicle that MLS plans to use is manufactured.
According to MLS, the factory and their colleagues in the Ukraine are unharmed and continue their work.
Matier said, “We’re standing by our partners in Ukraine …The team in Ukraine is working daily on helping us with some of the launch site design, power studies, etc. They’re working on the first stage as we speak. They’re also working on the Anteres rocket for Northrop Grumman to go to the International Space Station. They’re at work. They’re safe. That’s the way it is today and that’s the way we have to operate; is to continue to support our friends and colleagues in Ukraine.”
When asked if MLS had a backup rocket supplier if the war continued and Yuzmash was unable to manufacture and export the Cyclone 4M, Matier said, “If that plant, where this production happens, is destroyed, clearly we will have to look at alternatives and we certainly have.”
2023 test rocket
Recently, media reports have stated that MLS plans to launch a test rocket in 2023. The Journal asked if the situation in Ukraine would impact this timeline.
Matier responded, “That’s not the rocket we’re talking about…working with our federal partners, we’ve laid out a phased approach to getting to a medium class rocket launch later. The first phase of that though is to get a sub-orbital load and then an orbital launch of a smaller vehicle from a different company in, where we can then work through those operational plans with our federal partners. In other words, that first launch in 2023 is not a Ukrainian launch vehicle. It has nothing to do with them.
“The reason we can do that, is because these small launchers do not require significant facility infrastructure. They basically come containerized and ready to go. That allows us to work through some of the planning and processes and operational scenarios that we need to complete with our federal partners to be able to gain some flight experience and build their team and build our team to be able to be prepared for that larger rocket launch, later when we’re done with that facility. So that first phase, is a small launcher … We actually just finished signing a letter of intent here recently, [which] we will be talking about next week or the week after about that company and what that plan is, a little more.”
Matier further explained, “It's a phase one, phase two approach. Phase one is: small launcher, experience, flight heritage, revenue, and phase two is trimming out the rest of the facility for the larger vehicle. And at the end of the day our target market is certainly the medium class launch vehicle. That’s where the market need is.”
Although Matier wouldn’t discuss the small launch supplier last week, he said, “Once we have a definitive agree with them, and once that’s in place, we’ll be able to be more open about what the details are.”
When asked if the fuel used would differ from that previously discusses for the Cyclone 4M, Matier said, “We got permission for a medium class launcher using liquid oxygen, kerosene and hypergolic propellants. Anything else we would do, is well underneath that. Let’s just put it that way. We are not planning anything new in that kind of regard.”
While plans are moving forward, MLS has yet to finalize a lease agreement with the Department of Lands and Forestry for the site and have not yet received a letter from the Department of the Environment and Climate Change signing off on the conditions set under the approval of their Environmental Assessment for the project.
Communications Advisor for the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables Steven Stewart sent the following information about the lease process to The Journal via email last week: “The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables has received an application from Maritime Launch Services to access Crown lands near Canso, Guysborough Co. The lease has not been approved at this time and the government continues to work with Maritime Launch on the various authorizations required for the proposed project, including the request to use Crown lands. Maritime Launch has been granted interim access to the Crown lands to carry out studies required for the proposed project.”
With this interim access, Matier said MLS can move ahead with “some of the geotechnical work that we need to do to validate design, to continue design of some of the roadways. We’ve planned to do some of the test wells for where we may want to put in wells to draw water. We’ve gotten that approval, a letter of authority to do the geotech work already.”
He added, “There’s also a piece of development that’s separate from the land lease where we’re planning to put an entry gate and a security check point and a fire station potentially. There’s some other activities that may be able to kick off here pretty soon [this spring].”
Environmental Assessment conditions
When asked about progress in meeting the conditions set under the Environmental Assessment, Matier said, “I would ask you to go back to them for final status. We have provided them everything multiple times.”
Asked if all the conditions had to be met before shovels went into the ground, Matier said, “If you read the conditions that they gave to us in June of 2019, you will see that a significant amount of them are for before operations and another amount are for project commencement. The ones that are identified as project commencement, those are the ones that need to be done before you put a shovel in the ground. The ones for operations, those are the ones for before basically after construction before you start ramping up operations for a rocket launch. So, by their own determination, they have split those up.
He continued, “We know what our status is with the submissions that we’ve made; dangerous goods applications and wildlife management plans and the multiple times that that’s been done and updated and resubmitted, etcetera. Certainly so, they have a significant amount of documentation in their hands for sure. They’ve reviewed most of it at least once already, if not all of it.”
The Journal contacted the Department of Environment to determine the status of the Environmental Assessment conditions, but no information was available before the newspaper went to press.