Halifax to be host to first small satellites after long wait

The Nanuq company that aims to launch small satellites from a new spaceport in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia says it has booked a payload that will be the first spacecraft to be built in Halifax.

Rob Morrison, president of Space Investments Nova Scotia, said the British-based satellite maker 3DVax Imaging, has signed a deal to launch its LaserDeep remote sensing system on 3 October.

“This will be the first commercial payload from Nanuq at its new spaceport in Longfields-Davidson Heights,” Morrison said.

Nanuq, the Canadian government, and the space community hope that it will become a leading player in a fledgling industry serving increasingly sophisticated satellites and the growing market for robotic spacecraft.

“This will be our flagship launch and it is certainly exciting,” Drex Adams, chief executive of 3DVax Imaging, said. “We are proud to be one of the first companies to launch an aerospace prototype at Nova Scotia’s very first spaceflight facility.”

The 130ft (40m) tall ship Longfields-Davidson Heights (LBH) sits in a modified gasoline tanker at the spaceport at Tanunda Pond on Peterborough Island, a marine preserve and former sugar plantation located between St. John’s and Halifax.

The ship is the first of two future spaceports on Nova Scotia’s North Shore, with another of the planned Spaceport Mark II awaiting completion. The feasibility study for the latter says the state expects economic benefits of $560m over the next 20 years.

More than 60 small satellites and cubesats will be launched in 2018 at LBH. Nanuq, which co-owns the spaceport, has signed an agreement with a Canadian firm, MDA, to provide payload integration on some of the heavier satellites.

On Wednesday, Bill Hansen, Nanuq’s managing director, said his company’s aim is to attract other payloads from the commercial launch industry and hopes to partner with other Canadian companies to select future launches.

Space researchers and boosters will gather at the Nanuq spaceport next week, aiming to persuade the Canadian government and the public that a commercial spaceport should be built and operate on Canadian soil.

The Canadian Space Agency is an adviser on the project to the Nova Scotia government, which is seeking to be awarded a $15m annual federal space-launch subsidy fund.

Watch Gary Conner, the founding director of the @Nikon Space Institute @danekissinger & me at the @NovaScotiaSpace Conference next week in Halifax. I’ve been invited to speak about the advanced technologies key to supporting the Canadian Space Agency’s Commercial Space Transportation Partnerships. #SpaceAgency pic.twitter.com/U9B7dPBJ3I — David Wolfe (@ProfDavidWolfe) September 18, 2018

A more definitive decision on the Canadian space agency investment should be made by the end of this year, with some observers expecting the government to eventually award more than half of the funding.

The spaceport may prove a key economic driver to communities such as Saint John, which has undertaken major infrastructure investments in the wake of industry developments.

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