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.