Government Has Environmental Concerns About Nova Scotia Launch Site

Cyclone 4M booster

Nova Scotia has said that Maritime Launch Services must address  a range of environmental concerns about the proposed Canso Spaceport Facility before provincial authorities will approve the project, Canadian media report.

In the documents provided Wednesday, Neil Morehouse, a manager in the province’s Environment Department, says there is little in the proposal addressing how an explosion, crash or fuel leak would affect the nearby Canso Coastal Barrens Wilderness Area.

Morehouse says a spill would “destroy the impacted ecosystems with no chance of recovery within the next several hundred years.”

He says soils in that area are very thin and because of the wet, cold climate they have taken centuries to form.

According to the Maritime Launch Services proposal, the rockets would use nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimenthyl hydrazine, or UDH, for the second portion of their launch into the atmosphere.

A letter from the Defence Department says the military “does not have sufficient knowledge” to assess the impacts of an accidental discharge of the UDH on the land or surface water, but “suggests an assessment should be completed.”

The spaceport would use a Ukrainian-built Cyclone-4M booster. The rocket’s first stage uses liquid oxygen and RP-1, which are relatively benign. The second stage uses use nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimenthyl hydrazine, which are toxic.

Maritime Launch Services CEO Steve Matier said he was disappointed in the ministerial response to the company’s environmental assessment (EA).

“We submitted an absolutely compliant EA report,” Matier told The Journal during a telephone interview Saturday. “We did all the field and seasonal studies over the last 15 months. We compiled additional info about the rocket itself…We felt that it was a very comprehensive document, and it is.”

When these kinds of questions are raised, the minister has to respond, he said. “In retrospect it is not a surprise – but it is a disappointment.”

He said a rocket launch is completely new to Nova Scotia and Canada, which in part explains the response.

“We addressed wetlands, we addressed moose, we addressed everything. So it’s just the uniqueness of this project that is the part that I hadn’t fully anticipated.”

Matier, from New Mexico, noted that the information being requested is much more than what is typical for such projects in the U.S., where 11 spaceports are currently licensed.

The province has asked for a focus report with more detailed information on the rocket’s potential environmental impacts. Officials are in the process of defining precisely what the report must address.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Florida has a lot of old pads just waiting for someone to launch something off of them. Wallops is not too far way, and it seems Ukrainian tanks like flying off that range as well.

  • passinglurker

    arguably the airspace is busier over florida leading to higher pad costs to cover directing traffic and such, and wallops is less than ideal for SSO which is cyclone’s intended market

  • AdmBenson

    Alcantara in Brazil has ground facilities for Cyclone-4 that were about 80% complete when the project was called off. SecDef Mattis was recently in Brazil trying to negotiate the American use of Alcantara. Maybe financing the completion of the ground facilities and giving approval to Cyclone-4 launches from there would be just the bargaining chip needed to get the Brazilians to open Alcantara to ULA, SpaceX and Blue Origin. As for non-proliferation concerns, this project would help keep Ukrainian engineers off the street and working for the good guys. ( and it might just save the life of a Canadian moose or two.)

  • AdmBenson

    The original negotiations with Brazil about using Alcantara 15+ years ago failed when the Brazilian legislature wouldn’t ratify the agreement because they felt their national sovereignty wasn’t being respected. Basically, the US wanted the right to launch payloads without telling the Brazilians what they were and there was also a stipulation that none of the revenue generated by Alcantara could be used on Brazil’s own space program. Brazilian pride wouldn’t let them sign off on a one-sided agreement.

    Fast forward to now. Helping the Brazilians launch Cyclone-4 rockets from Alcantara would solve a lot of problems for the US at a relatively low cost.

    1. The factory that makes the Cyclone-4 is in the Ukraine where the US has enormous influence. Building rockets for Brazil keeps the Ukrainians busy and out of trouble but doesn’t proliferate launch technology to the Brazilians.

    2. Cyclone-4 is a much more capable rocket than Brazil’s homegrown VLS-1 and VLM-1. Those rockets are solid fueled and resemble large ballistic missiles. If the Brazilians have Cyclone-4 they would probably give up further development on their own rockets and would be no longer a potential source of missile technology proliferation.

    3. We could offer the Brazilians a reciprocal “don’t ask, don’t tell” payload policy. We won’t demand to know what they are launching on Cyclone-4 if they don’t demand to know what we are launching on our rockets.

    4. Right now, if Brazil wants a satellite for national security, they call up China or Russia to build the sat and launch it. With Cyclone-4, they can launch their own homegrown satellites or ones that they purchase from the US or Europe. This helps keep Brazil solidly in the Western camp.

    5. Alcantara is near the equator and launching from there is ~25% more efficient than launching from Florida. This is particularly important for commercial operators who can increase their profitability by launching from there. Also, the performance increase allows a greater recovery margin for reusable 1st stages. SpaceX still throws away F9 boosters when they are being used for high-energy missions, but this would probably be unnecessary from Alcantara.

    6. 25% performance improvement is hard to pass up when launching bulk cargo like propellants, water, food, etc. Alcantara would be great for supporting lunar or deep space missions.

    7. As for spending the revenue from Alcantara on their own space program, the US might want to encourage it if the money wouldn’t be spent on VLS-1 or VLM-1 rocket development. If the Brazilians have a viable space program, they are liable to spend money on American space technology. Also, they could potentially contribute cargo missions to the ISS in return for seat(s) on a US manned vehicle.

    8. Brazil could pull in other South American countries, keeping them in the Western camp too.

    9. Cyclone-4 is smaller than F9, Vulcan and New Glenn and would not compete with them. Instead, it would round out the launch services available from Alcantara.

    10. (This one is wishful thinking.) Cyclone-4 is similar to Titan-2.
    Gemini will fly again!

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Good point. But I looked up the proposed launch site in Nova Scotia, and it’s right under a major set of TATL airways. So they’ll have to deal with airliners as well. I wonder how disruptive a launch would be to TATL aircraft doing a great circle route on a intercontinental flight vs mostly domestic flights hugging the East coast of Florida?

  • AdmBenson

    On second thought, this is unlikely to come to pass. Regarding other countries, the Trump administration doesn’t do win/win. Their style is more win/roto-rootered.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    I’ve been to Nova Scotia, not much there other than a crappy casino. I’m sure if Florida can make it work so can Nova Scotia

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