A company that’s developing a new, simpler space shuttle plans to build a launch facility in Cape Breton, N. S., to take commercial payloads into orbit. The shuttle, known as the Silver Dart, might land at the Sydney, N.S., airport.
PlanetSpace plans to spend $200 million US preparing for its first launch in late 2009. It could carry satellites and even tourists into space. The company’s website, www.planetspace.org, which details the Cape Breton plans, also says it’s working with a partner to develop a reality TV show set in space.
Nova Scotia has agreed to donate 120 hectares of coastal land for the launch site.
“It’s a very credible opportunity,” said Mark James, a business development executive with Nova Scotia Business Inc. “Once you sit down and look at their business plan and their business model and their technical capabilities, you realize very quickly that this is a real project.”
PlanetSpace is a partnership between Canadian rocket developer Geoff Sheerin and American Chirinjeev Kathuria, a director of the company that sent the first tourist into space.
PlanetSpace has a rocket, the Canadian Arrow. James said it uses a booster technology which has flown more than 3,000 times. The Silver Dart re-entry vehicle is based on a U.S. military design that never went into production.
“There’s very little technical risk to what they’re doing,” James said Wednesday.
PlanetSpace is one of about six companies trying to launch a commercial space service. Each is trying to be first to offer a regular schedule. The PlanetSpace website says it plans to fly 2,000 astronauts in its first five years.
“It is a private-sector space race,” James said.
New Mexico is investing about $500 million in taxpayers’ money in a commercial launch facility. James said PlanetSpace can raise its own capital.
“For this project to go ahead, there is not a requirement for a large infusion of government money,” he said.
The company chose Cape Breton because of it’s position on the globe, James said. It’s more efficient for reaching the International Space Station than Cape Canaveral, Fla. Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome is located at a similar latitude, but James said the United States wants to stop launching payloads from that country.
He said it’s always safer to launch over the ocean and it would be “obvious” for the Silver Dart to land at the Sydney Airport.
James said it’s unclear exactly where the launch site will be, or how many people might work there. PlanetSpace is looking at a few provincially owned properties. It plans to begin relocating staff from Ontario next month. Brian Flinn, CanWest