Monday, July 31, 2017

Cyclone 4M Launch Facility Getting Mixed Reviews in Nova Scotia

          By Chuck Black

It's been panned in this publication, but others have been kinder. For example, the April 28th, 2017 Halifax meeting of the Space Advisory Board (SAB) noted "considerable optimism and excitement regarding plans for a spaceport in the Province of Nova Scotia."

But that was then and this is now...

As outlined in the May 29th, 2017 Russian Space Web post, "Tsyklon-4M (Cyclone-4M) prepares a move to Canada," the violent breakup between Russia and Ukraine in 2014, "opened new opportunities for Tsyklon-4." As outlined in the article, "the conflict between the two former Soviet republics essentially grounded the leading low-cost launchers of small satellites -- Dnepr and Rockot. At the same time, Russia's new-generation light-weight Angara-1 rocket was continuously delayed, while the European Vega was too expensive for many small satellite operators. Although the US-based SpaceX attempted to fill the void with its competitive prices, the company's Falcon-9 rocket is often oversized for many small-satellite missions. It left the Indian PSLV rocket as the one vehicle well-suited for that particular market niche" and gave Tsyklon manufacturer Yuzhnoye the opportunity to re-enter the marketplace with a heavily modified Tsyklon-4 (now called Cyclone 4M) able to reach the near-polar orbits frequented by small satellites, "such as those comprising future remote-sensing constellations." Photo c/o MLS.

While local officials in the Municipal District of Guysborough, Nova Scotia (NS) have given a green light to the construction of a local facility just outside of Canso, NS able to launch modified Ukrainian-built Cyclone 4M rockets, others are slowly developing reservations about the thirteen year old project which has already failed once in Brazil...

As outlined in the July 21st, 2017 Herald News post, "Canso rocket project getting mixed reviews,"  the planned launch site is "only a couple of kilometres from the tiny communities of Hazel Hill and Little Dover," which has caused concern in those communities, since rockets are noisy and sometimes explode.

The plan is being spearheaded by NS based Maritime Launch Services (MLS). Earlier this year, after much hemming and hawing, MLS announced plans to invest upwards of $225Mln US ($281Mln CDN) to set up the spaceport and (officially) wound down plans to solicit Canadian government investment, although the question of tax credits and "off-sets," is certainly still on the table.

Most of that money is expected to be provided  through the Ukrainian based Yuzhnoye State Design Office, which designed the Cyclone-4M rocket (and where MLS CEO John Isella works as the North American development manager) and Santa Maria, CA based United Paradyne Corporation (where MLS CTO Dave Walsh works as VP/CTO).

MLS plans a ten to fifteen metre high control centre and rocket assembly area (which will assemble components manufactured in the Yuzhnoye Ukrainian facilities), a concrete launch pad and a custom rail system to transport and position the rocket for liftoff. The complex will use Ukrainian technology from Yuzhnoye (including the Cyclone 4M launch vehicle) and fuel (including liquid oxygen, refined kerosene and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, a hypergolic and carcinogenic liquid rocket fuel derived from hydrazine) procured through United Paradyne.

As outlined in the the October 3rd, 2016 post, "Sixteen Organizations Currently Developing Small-Sat Launchers," and the follow-up October 12th, 2016 post, "Sixteen More Organizations Currently Developing Small-Sat Launchers," there are a lot of organizations currently developing small-sat launchers to fill the market gap. For all its worth, and as outlined in the April 22nd, 2016 post, "2009 Canadian Space Agency Report on Indigenous Canadian Launcher said "Yes!" But CSA Didn't Move Forward," Canada doesn't really need the Ukraine's help, or anyone else's for that matter, in order to build and launch domestically produced rockets. Photo c/o Rocket Labs.

According to the article, there are concerns in the community about not being knowledgeable enough to ask important questions relating to the facility and greater concerns over what happened in the early 2000's when Yuzhnoye and the Ukrainian government announced plans to launch Cyclone-4 rockets in Brazil.

That deal fell through in 2015, just before MLS was formed and began promoting Cyclone-4M's for Canada.

Another concern is labour. According to MLS president Steve Matier, the launch facility is expected to need several hundred workers for construction and a further thirty to fifty full-time people will be needed to run the facility after construction is completed. Those workers will be difficult to source and house locally and could certainly change the culture of the community, which only holds a few hundred people in total now and is mostly focused on fishing.

For more on MLS and NS rocket ports, check out the April 17th, 2017 post, "An Update on NS Rockets, Intelsat Hunting for Canadian Gov't Satellite Contracts & More Ukrainian Lybid News," the February 6th, 2017 post, "Europe Will Fund the Prometheus Reusable Engine; Canada Pitched Cyclone-4's" and the September 11th, 2016 post, "Ukranian Based Yuzhnoye Design Office Eyeing a Canadian Spaceport for its Cyclone-4 Rocket."
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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