N.S. spaceport project on schedule despite province seeking more information

FILE - Stephen Matier, left, president of Maritime Launch Services and Maksym Degtiarov, chief designer of the launch vehicle at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, talk with reporters at a meeting of the proposed Spaceport project team in Dartmouth, N.S. on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

The head of a firm hoping to open Canada’s only commercial spaceport says they remain on schedule for a slated first satellite launch in 2021, even though provincial authorities have withheld approval pending more information.

Environment Minister Margaret Miller said provincial consultations uncovered concerns about the proposed Canso Spaceport Facility, and Maritime Launch Services Ltd. will need to address them before the project goes ahead.

“(A) report shall examine potential impacts of the project on: water resources, soil, air quality, noise, flora and fauna, fish and fish habitat, protected areas and parks, dangerous good management, waste management, human health and contingency planning,” she said in a decision released Thursday.

READ MORE: Canada’s first commercial spaceport submits environmental assessment to N.S.

The Canso Spaceport Facility, near the small community of Canso in eastern Nova Scotia, would be 20 hectares in size and is aimed at attracting firms that want to put satellites into orbit for commercial purposes.

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Maritime Launch Services registered for an environmental assessment in July. The consultations included public and Mi’kmaq submissions, as well as various provincial and federal government agencies.

Miller said the company has a year to submit the report.

Maritime Launch president and CEO Stephen Matier said while Thursday’s decision put a damper on their plans for a groundbreaking later this year, they still plan on beginning construction in the spring.

“We will do it as quickly as we can, and as correctly as we can, we don’t want to see this thing drag out,” he said.

“We certainly want to see this project through to success, we’re certainly committed to making it work.”

READ MORE: Developer pushes back construction of Canada’s only commercial spaceport

The environmental assessment study filed last month by Maritime Launch Services references surveys of at-risk species in the area, such as mainland moose and bats.

The study, prepared by independent contractor Strum Consulting, also proposes mitigation efforts in the event of a fuel spill or launch failure, and cites consultations with local groups that might be affected by construction or potential pollution from the rocket launches.

Matier said he’s “disappointed” that their original application wasn’t enough, but he said he’s confident they’ll finish the study with plenty of time to spare so they can begin construction as soon as possible.

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“We never expected that this would fall off a log easy, we knew there would be challenges, and this is one of them,” he said. “We’re optimistic.”

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs say they agree with Miller’s decision.

In an email Friday, Chief Paul Prosper said the Mi’kmaq undertake traditional and current activities like hunting, fishing, and gathering in the area where the proposed spaceport will be.

“We know that future activities by Maritime Launch Services will have an impact on our activities and it is imperative that these impacts be avoided or addressed before any work begins,” said Prosper.

In the meantime, Matier said he’s waiting on further instructions from the environmental assessment administrator before beginning to work on the report.

The administrator has 25 days to provide him with a terms of reference.

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