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The developers of Canada's only commercial spaceport are shooting for as many as a dozen rockets to blast off per year from a proposed site near a small community on Nova Scotia's eastern shore.
Proponents of the project gathered in a Halifax boardroom on Monday to plan the next steps, which will rely first on the province approving an environmental assessment plan early next year.
Stephen Matier, president of Maritime Launch Services Ltd., was in an upbeat mood following the meeting, saying the group is expecting to be building in May 2018.
"With a launch date of 2020, and 18 months of construction and six months of commissioning, you can see where we've got to get to groundbreaking. So this is an important and key time for us," said the executive, who represents a consortium of three U.S.-based space firms.
He presented rocket designers and executives from Ukrainian-based Yuzhnoye Design with a case of Rocket Lager craft beer — recently created in Guysborough County by a craft brewer and featuring an astronaut on its label.
The project doesn't plan to put humans into space, but is rather squarely aimed at attracting consortiums of firms that want to put satellites into orbit for commercial purposes such as near-Earth imaging and global Internet broadband services.
"Why are we doing this? There's a huge market out there for satellites to get put into space and there's a real lack of launch capability to be able to do that," said Matier.
He said the first round of satellite launches his firm is aiming for begins in 2021 and 2022, and the initial goal for the company would be one to three launches a year, with a near-term goal of eight launches annually.
Maksym Degtiarov, a rocket design executive with Yuzhnoye State Design Office, was on hand for the news conference to say the Ukrainian firm is prepared to ramp up its production of Cyclone-4M medium-lift rockets to supply the site.
"We expect it to happen up to 12 times a year. From six to 12 times a year," he said. Matier added the firm is capable of producing about one of the rockets every 29 days.
Degtiarov said each launch would take up to two minutes and from three kilometres away would sound no louder than a commercial aircraft.
It's estimated the rocket will move over 20,000 metres through the sky within 105 seconds, with the public able to view the spectacle from vantage points at Little Dover, N.S., about eight kilometres south of Canso, said Matier.
Yuzhnoye State Design Office is the rocket design company that works under the State Space Agency of Ukraine but operates commercially. A second firm, Yuzhmash, is a manufacturing company and operates the same way and builds what Yuzhnoye designs.
Overall, the project is a private-sector venture, but will require the province's environmental approvals and further regulatory approvals for launching procedures.
Matier said his firm will want satellite launch customers to begin putting forward downpayments by the beginning of next year for the preparation of their rockets and the launching costs.
"There's an 18-month schedule ahead of the launch date where they need to start making some of these downpayments and that will accrue in an escrow (account) as we're moving forward," explained.
"Financing continues. It's that kind of project. You're always building your financial structure," he said.