- cost $200 million
- themoney we've given other countries to launch our satellites, we could have built our own
- somewhere on the west coast of the Island
- less of an evironmental impact than a mine
- one launch per year to start, then three per year
- Canada is falling behind other countries
Vancouver Island seen as potential site for spaceport (external - login to view)
By Stefania Seccia, Westerly News December 9, 2010
Canada is being left behind by other nations in the realm of space science technology and capabilities, according to one University of British Columbia astronomer who is aiming to fix that.
"What we've paid other countries [especially India] in launching our satellites we could have paid for a spaceport," Dr. Redouane Al Fakir noted.
The Vancouver astrophysicist told the Westerly News in a phone interview that Canada is trailing Russia, India and China who each have spaceports, which other countries including Canada and America pay to launch satellites from. In November Al Fakir first announced his general idea for Space Launch Canada.
Al Fakir's next announcement, flushing out more details, came by way of a Canadian Press story on December 6, which since has thrown him into the spotlight as many other news outlets including CBC and the A Channel have interviewed him.
What's warranted the attention is his intention to bring a spaceport to B.C.'s coast (as a launch site requires the ocean to be close by.) He also says the province has an untapped, raw energy unlike its east coast counterpart.
If not on Vancouver Island, the other option is to have the port built up north, which is less accessible, he added.
However, Al Fakir said the full vision would see a spaceport built on the Atlantic side of Canada in the future as well.
A spaceport would have several components: a space launch pad, facility, rocket launcher and rocket . And it could potentially come to the Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet region.
With one location he already favours (that he has not disclosed), initially he intends to meet with local community members and stakeholders across Vancouver Island.
At first Al Fakir will have a "flash visit" with several communities including Tofino and Ucluelet for a first impression, which will lead to a more organized visit. A trip was scheduled for this week and was postponed for better weather sometime before Christmas.
Although he is aware that some West Coast residents may be reluctant to play host to a spaceport, he points to the many positives that having one could bring such as spin-off tourism.
He noted that environmental concerns would not inhibit the project because they are minimal compared to other operations.
A self-described environmentalist at heart, Al Fakir said a spaceport has much less a carbon footprint than any mining or forestry ventures.
For instance, when a rocket is set off, the big plume of smoke seen is actually water vapours because it is launched on a surface of water so heat transfers to it.
"At first we will only launch once a year," he said. "Then slowly we'd go up to one every four months."
Also, Al Fakir said the site would fit into any area where clear-cut logging ravaged through as the size of the space needed would be approximately the same space utilized for a school.
"We would not need to clear cut much if we used a logged patch," he said.
The other un-environmentally friendly practice of testing fuel could be done in industrial zones in larger urban centres such as Vancouver, according to Al Fakir, and not necessarily in the remote location he is working on attaining.
From my marketing self, it is in our interest to sell Canada to the rest of the world as a fusion of a wilderness frontier and space as a frontier," he explained. "Why would we then come in and damage that wilderness?"
Space Launch Canada will aim to be 100 per cent Canadian owned, according to the astrophysicist, and attract other countries in launching their satellites.
This idea led him to visit other countries in order to establish a collaborative effort to optimize funding and resources and add to what Canada already has.
Al Fakir took a trip to Qatar to look for funding and to acquire investors for the project, which is a similar route America has taken as it's collaborated with China and India too.
"India will be landing on the moon in two years," Al Fakir said. "China will soon have astronauts landing on the moon."
"With every day and month that passes Canada is falling behind in the further advancements of the other countries."
His presentation in Qatar regarding Canada and a potential project design for a station on the moon received a positive response.
A space rocket for his project would initially be made elsewhere at a cost of about $200 million, but eventually he would want to make one in Canada too.
"It is not a big cost when compared to how much the military spent on helicopters," Al Fakir added. "It would also cost less to make the spaceport."
So far about $250,000 of funding has been secured by Space Launch Canada, but more is needed.
In the mean time, Al Fakir, who is also the head of the Muhammed Institute for Space Science, said he looks forward to visiting the various communities and seeing what the responses will be.
For more information visit Space Launch Canada (external - login to view). Space Launch is a Vancouver-based federal Canadian enterprise dedicated to attaining Canada's first major spaceport.