Nova Scotia to pay privately to launch its first rocket

Good news for launch watchers in northern New Brunswick and Cape Breton — if you are a test client, at least.

Developers of a Nova Scotia spaceport have announced that a private firm will be paying for its inaugural launch, which will take place in 2019.

The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is on board to provide the craft payloads, a company spokesman said on Friday.

Tim Dyer, managing director of Future Aviation Concepts (FAC), a Winnipeg-based firm, confirmed to the Canadian Press that AFRL had been a part of the program from the beginning. He declined to say if the company chose CFRL for its debut.

The two-stage aircraft is to carry payloads of unspecified size, he said.

According to the Cape Breton Post, Dyer said it’s too early to discuss whether it will be a commercial aircraft or unmanned spacecraft.

“If it’s a space payload it’s probably going to be more like satellites and other smaller spaceships, not like a manned aircraft,” he said, according to the Cape Breton newspaper.

The $60 million science, technology and innovation development spaceport in Hawkesbury, a four-hour drive north of Halifax, is billed as the smallest of its kind in the world. The project is being funded with $50 million from the province and $10 million from Ottawa, according to a spokesman for New Brunswick Economic Development Minister Bill Estabrooks.

Future Aviation Concepts won’t be the first private firm to use the spaceport. The FAA has awarded a $4.7 million grant to North Carolina-based NanoRacks to conduct a design review of the facility’s controls and command-and-control system, according to the Canadian Press.

The Cape Breton spaceport project was included in the fiscal 2017 budget and receives government funding annually.

Last month, a Nova Scotia newspaper received an offer from a firm to locate its headquarters and research operations in Hawkesbury, about four hours from downtown Halifax.

“It’s an exciting time to be building a space business in New Brunswick,” Estabrooks told the Cape Breton Post at the time.

He said the space startup will provide support to research that aims to “bridge the gap between existing space enterprises in Canada and those from abroad.”

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