Commercial space flight startup Maritime Launch Services is eyeing suborbital rocket launches from its under-construction facility in Canso, Nova Scotia, this year, as the federal government promises to modernize aerospace regulations to accommodate the private space industry.
MLS Chief Executive Steve Matier said in an interview that his company is taking a “crawl, walk, run” approach to its launches, with phased construction plans to accommodate progressively larger launch vehicles.
The federal government announced last week that it will work with industry partners to develop a modernized set of regulations for commercial space launches over about the next three years, with requests for launches being assessed individually in the meantime.
“We’ve been working with Transport Canada’s safety division, policy division since all the way back in 2017, bringing out this whole idea of building a commercial launch facility in Canada,” said Matier in an interview. “But they’ve recognized all along that the regulations they have are quite dated.
“The positive part was that there are existing regulations that can be used on an interim basis, but the downside was that they really needed to also upgrade some of the policies and bring them forward to today.”
MLS went public on the TSX Venture Exchange in 2021 and finalized the land lease for its Canso spaceport last August.
Matier said MLS is in the process of building the road to its launch site, with construction of the main staging area to come later.
The first suborbital rocket launch, which requires less infrastructure than larger space vehicles, will come this year — the “crawl” part of “crawl, walk, run” — with small orbital launches in 2024 and larger rockets with capacities of up to 5,000 kilograms to come in 2025.
Matier’s team so far includes 10 people, as well as the employees of the construction company building the launch facility. That contractor, he added, was also an early investor in MLS.
For its suborbital launches, the company will use Aurora-branded launch vehicles from Quebec’s Reaction Dynamics, which was founded in 2017. For larger rockets, Matier still plans to use rockets built by Yuzhnoye Design Office — the Ukrainian former manufacturer of ballistic missiles for the Soviet Union.
Matier said Yuzhnoye, which is located in Dnipro, in central Ukraine, has so far continued its operations despite the Russian invasion. And MLS has contingency plans in place in case the war does disrupt production, which he said could include tapping another supplier with a mostly ready-to-use design, such as one developed at a university.
MLS has no immediate plans to raise more money, although Matier said that will come eventually. Now that construction is underway, pre-order revenue for launch slots is starting to become a near-term source of potential funding.
“As we get closer to launch and the launch sales begin to kick in, we’ll start generating revenue about 18 months before that first launch of the medium class (the Yuzhnoye rocket),” said Matier. “And that’s US$45 million per launch.”