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Canada's spaceport

PlanetSpace
An artist's conception shows a rocket taking off from PlanetSpace's proposed
Nova Scotia launch facility. The schedule calls for orbital launches to begin by 2010.


Following up on last week's Log item about PlanetSpace, Canadian news outlets are reporting that Nova Scotia is setting aside 300 acres of coastal land on Cape Breton for the Canadian-American spaceship venture to use as a launch facility. The Globe and Mail calls it "Canada's Cape Canaveral."

"Cape Breton provides basically the anchor for our space program," PlanetSpace's chairman, telecom millionaire Chirinjeev Kathuria, told me today as he confirmed the plan. His current schedule calls for suborbital flights to begin in 2008, with the transition to orbital flights in the 2009-2010 time frame.

PlanetSpace's orbital design, known as the Silver Dart, is an updated version of the golden-oldie FDL-7 space glider that was once considered by the Air Force for space operations. The power behind it would take the form of a beefed-up Canadian Arrow being developed by Kathuria's Planetspace partner, Geoff Sheerin, with vintage V-2 technology as his guide.

PlanetSpace had been considering a lakeside Ontario site for its suborbital Canadian Arrow flights, and Kathuria said the Ontario scenario is still under consideration as well.

There are other initiatives in the air - including an agreement with a NASA center for technical assistance in developing the Silver Dart system, and a deal with a Midwestern state for a suborbital launch facility, Kathuria said. But for now, he declined to spell out the details of those pending deals.

PlanetSpace doesn't expect to get any money from NASA during the initial phase of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, or COTS. But Kathuria said he hoped his venture's spacecraft would be far enough along by 2010 to be a serious contender for Phase 2 contracts to transfer crew and cargo to the international space station.

NASA has confirmed that the winners in the COTS program's Phase 1 competition, due to be announced Friday, won't be the only ones eligible to vie for Phase 2 money. The teams that were passed over during the Phase 1 review will have yet another opportunity - and PlanetSpace intends to put in a bid. Although he declined to go into detail (again), Kathuria said "corporate and institutional partners" were in place to fund spacecraft development even if NASA doesn't kick in any money.