I read a recent press release from Maritime Launch Systems and looked up their proposed launch site location in Nova Scotia, Canada. I don't understand why this location was chosen.

If I were looking for a good launch site location, I would look for these attributes:

  1. overwater for its main launch trajectories to minimize range safety issues
  2. nearby rail, road (and water port access would be nice)
  3. a nearby airport of at least regional size for crew changes
  4. some level of infrastructure for living - restaurants, shopping, etc.

The good point about their proposed site is that launch azimuths anywhere from about 90° to 180° have no range safety issues. There is land south of the site, but not a lot and it's pretty sparse. And that seems to be it for the upsides.

The nearest town is Canso, a town of 806 people. It can be accessed only by Highway 16, a relatively minor road (at this point, it widens out about 5 km to the west). It is hours away from the nearest major city (Halifax). The nearest railway is about 70 km away by land (40 km as the crow flies), passing through Port Hastings. The nearest airport is also in Port Hastings, although there is an emergency heliport in Canso. Canso has a port, but it is open to the sea and capable of handling small craft only. Even the location seems bad, they have built a wind farm between the town and the proposed launch site, so they're going to have to build around that.

Now let me draw your attention to another possible site at a closed mine a little further north: 46.174729°N, -59.82845°E

This site has an even better launch area, with pretty much any launch azimuth from 350° to 180° being open to the same extent as the Canso site with the nearest land to the north being on the far side of the Gulf of St Lawrence. The nearest town is Glace Bay, 19,000 people only 7 km away, while Sydney is another 30,000 at 25 km. There are three major highways leading to Sydney, which is also a major protected port handling the largest seagoing vessels and extensive railway service. There is a fairly large airport between the two towns, on the highway that leads directly to that site. That highway is larger than the one to Canso, and there are two major access roads to the former mine. The southern of those two is a former railway line, the path of which remains clear to Victoria Junction, an operational switchyard, and from there an active railway to the rest of Canada.

The mine on that location permanently stopped production in March 2020 leaving all the infrastructure in place, notably power and access roads. There's also a number of other former railway lines in the area leading to all sorts of suitable areas around there. For instance, if one is willing to launch north instead of south for the polar orbits, Graces Cove in New Waterford has an active railway.

Soooo... anyone know what's going on here? Canso seems like the dumbest place on the planet for a new launch site given the hundreds of other nearby locations that seem much better. I assume there's something I'm missing here.

Related: Proposed Canso Spaceport, challenges to commercial viability of a private spaceport?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hi. Can you add some clarifying information, such as what country or space provider is "Maritime Launch Systems", a link to the press release, and what country is "Canso" in. That way, readers will have a better understanding of what is being discussed without needing to do a lot of research (such as looking up the latitude and longitude, or is it longitude and latitude?) $\endgroup$
    – JohnHoltz
    Jun 8, 2021 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ For sub-orbital space tourism, okay. For anything orbital, there are better choices. There real question is: Will Carly Simon take a lear jet there to see the 2024 total eclipse of the sun? $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Jun 8, 2021 at 21:14


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