A controversial satellite launch site in Sutherland, Canada, which critics say would violate the country’s high ethical standards has been submitted for approval by federal officials.

The plan would bring the NASERU solar-powered satellite launch system, located 250 miles east of the Arctic Circle, in line with the terrestrial orbit, which is approximately 327 miles above the Earth. The satellite system would take nine years to build and launch. The satellite is based on a material called C-Dub mounted on a capsule, that can be assembled with components and transported to space in about three weeks.

Opponents have pointed out the possible ethical issues surrounding the project in light of Canada’s promise to uphold the highest standards in pursuing business and trade. (One has suggested the reason America and Canada did not relocate their border since the 1812 Treaty of Ghent was intended to trade fishing and shipping for soldiers and spare parts from land.)

The Canadian Space Agency, under the leadership of former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Julian Fantino, said it is confident the facility would uphold the high ethical standards and that there are no plans to undermine Canada’s sovereignty. “The project will not have significant environmental impacts,” the agency said in a statement, adding that the facility will be the world’s first dedicated space launch center for scientific research.

But the Canadian Electrical Civil Engineering Society has raised serious questions about Canada’s commitment to ethical oversight and whether this satellite launch site is compatible with the government’s global push to expand the use of space.

The Canadian Electronic Civil Engineering Society has sent a letter to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale raising concerns about the satellite launch site in Sutherland. It called on the government to “take steps to ensure a regulatory framework that protects Canadians from both environmental and political fallout and can meet international standards.”

Dozens of scientists, including Astrophysicist David Levy of the University of Toronto, signed the letter. “People will think they have done it right here in Canada when they launch these satellites,” Levy said.

In an open letter to the British Columbia government last year, Levy said he was concerned about a request by the Canadian Space Agency to perform tests at any site in British Columbia that includes “live satellite systems.” He said that would violate Canadian law, which he said explicitly states that “all field testing activities should be conducted in controlled scientific environments in a fully sequestered environment.”

A request for comment from the British Columbia government was not immediately returned.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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