Agency plans satellite launches from West Coast
One man’s dream of using the West Coast as a location to launch satellites into space has taken another step closer to reality.
Space Launch Canada has signed a three-year agreement with the University of Victoria to construct three space satellites. Work on the design and construction has already started, and the first satellite should be completed in one year and launched within two years, said Space Launch Canada director Redouane Fakir.
“This is a chance to begin diversifying the economy on the West Coast with a viable alternative,” said Fakir, who spearheads the project. “I always hear that West Coast communities are resource based or that they have resource economies. I believe that we are capable of going farther than that.”
The $840,000 project is being underwritten with a $420,000 grant from the Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council of Canada, and the other half with private investors.
The satellites will be built at the UVic Centre for Aerospace Research, a first for the facility, Fakir said.
Specifically, the team at UVic will construct three Space Launch Moon-5 satellites, each of which has a 10-year lifespan once in orbit. A third group — AGO Environmental Electronics — is also involved with the research.
The satellites will have the ability to take high-resolution pictures from space for educational purposes. “People will be able to take pics of something real time instead of using old pictures of something that may be different now,” Fakir said. “These won’t be military grade super high-resolution but they’ll be good for what they’re used for.”
As well, students from across the globe will be able to send basic messages to each other, and the satellites will be useful in a pinch if the Internet is down, he added.
In 2011, Fakir proposed building a launch site somewhere on the West Coast: Port Alberni, Ucluelet or Tofino. The idea is still percolating and hasn’t been forgotten, Fakir said.
His plan is to build a satellite then launch it from another country. Next, to bring another country’s launch infrastructure here to launch the second satellite from a barge on the West Coast. And finally, to build a third satellite and launch it from a dedicated launch facility on the West Coast.
It’s too late to get in on the space software sector, which is established elsewhere and saturated now, Fakir said. “We missed that boat. But it’s a good time to get in on space technology at the launch level.”
A new sector would not only diversify the economy but would also spark arts and culture. “Inspiration makes arts and culture prosper and inspiration can come from making new things,” Fakir said.
“In communities where things are happening, arts and culture are thriving.”