Steve Matier wants Maritime Launch Services to become “the UPS driver or Greyhound bus for space.”
Matier, the president of Maritime Launch Services, presented on behalf of the company to an audience at St. F.X.’s Schwartz building, describing the benefits of a potential rocket launch facility near the community Canso.
Although his description was slightly facetious, the subject of Matier’s March 14 presentation constituted very serious scientific, and economic opportunity for Canso, and the rest of Nova Scotia.
Maritime Launch Services, in conjunction with the rocket technology expertise of Ukrainian aerospace companies Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash, is looking to utilize Canso’s proximity to the ocean and infrastructure in Nova Scotia, to build a facility from which rockets can be launched into orbit.
“We want to safely, reliably and cost-effectively deliver satellites from the ground to space,” Matier explained. “Whether for global broadband internet or science missions or near-earth imaging, there’s a real need for launch capability that delivers.”
By doing everything safely and by the book within the facility, Matier said opportunities open up “inside and outside of the fence.”
Rockets are hard
Maritime Launch is looking to use tried-tested-and-true older rocket technology. Matier explained the use of older technology, noting that “rockets are hard.”
In a call with the Casket, he expanded upon that aphorism, saying that Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash have successfully launched 675 rockets into space, and that the experience and knowledge the company has with that technology presents much less risk than some of the newer startups aerospace, using newer, less tested technology.
“Finding that level of expertise in the launch industry is hard,” he said, noting that expertise greatly reduces risk.
During his 16 years working with NASA, Matier noted, “my job was to break rockets, to make sure they were safe,” to safeguard against any potential problems the rockets the agency used, would be dealt with before people were launched into space in them. In that, he became acquainted with the fact that reliability is crucial in the business of launching rockets into space.
“The industry is full of startups trying to build rockets from scratch. That is inherently difficult,” Matier said. “These companies haven’t done it for 60-plus years, so bringing skills and abilities and the track record of those things that Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash.
What’s in it for Canso?
One of the guests at Matier’s presentation asked about the economic advantages that such a launch facility would bring to Canso and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.
Matier said the project could provide work for tradespeople in region, in construction, and eventually the operating of the facility.
Matier said the company would invest in local services like the local fire department and emergency services.
Maritime Launch Services would also work to help update other services in the area, such as hospitals in the region.
“Maritime Launch Services will bring about 40 to 50 employees to the site, including tradespeople like pipefitters and electricians, and people with various technical expertise, and that’s just for the operation of a facility like this,” Matier said.
Another significant benefit would be the kinds of activity a launch facility would bring “outside the fence,” such as the interest of several Atlantic Canadian universities, and the Atlantic Canadian aerospace community in participating in the project.
“Satellite manufacturing, support, design and engineering are also potential things that could pop up outside the fence,” Matier said. “People want to be close to the launch area.”
A launch facility in Nova Scotia would inevitably bring economic activity from companies and organizations looking to avail themselves of the rockets Maritime Launch Services wants to send into space, about eight times a year.
Matier noted even the tourism side would benefit, with the prospect of several rocket launches a year drawing enthusiasts out to Canso to spectate.
“I’ve gotten thousands of emails from people who would be willing to come out, from across Canada, to watch these kinds of activities occur,” he said.
Prime real estate
Another reason Maritime Launch Services is seeking to build a launch facility in the Eastern Shore area is because of the Goldilocks-like convergence of good factors the area has going for it, logistically and geographically speaking.
“When looking for a launch location, you want to have the trajectory in the right direction; you want an expanse of ocean in the direction you launch over,” Matier said.
From the ground safety perspective, there needs be a good “buffer” of space between the launch site and any population centers – which there is.
“It’s all about public safety,” Matier noted.
Conversely, Matier noted an ideal launch location isn’t too isolated from infrastructure and population centers.
The Eastern Shore, he noted, with its reasonable proximity to an airport, a major city and other population centers, and the infrastructure they entail, fits that criteria as well.