SpaceRyde just opened Canada's first orbital rocket factory near Toronto

Canadian startup SpaceRyde officially opened the country's first orbital rocket factory in Vaughan this week.

The firm's 25,000 square-foot facility will produce a new generation of rocket technology that promises to consume far less fuel than conventional rockets, and dramatically reduce the environmental impact associated with lifting small-scale payloads to orbit.

The innovation making this possible is a launch system that uses balloons to carry rockets beyond the earth's atmosphere before ignition takes place.

The company has spent the last few years perfecting a rocket carrier system that uses onboard computation to stabilize and fine-tune the rocket's position in mid-air. This is critical because balloon-based launch systems are inherently susceptible to wind interference.

SpaceRyde's first successful test launch took place in 2019, and while the company is still working to develop reusable rockets, they've already solved the challenge of recovering the balloon and rocket-carrier apparatus for future deployment.

At the factory's ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, COO Saharnaz Safari described current rockets as "expensive beasts that take months to build, and a lot of money to launch." 

She added that "If we have on-demand space delivery [which is what SpaceRyde is working towards], we can benefit from space in ways that we just haven't been able to so far." 

Potential applications for SpaceRyde's rocket system include manufacturing synthetic hearts in microgravity, assembling and repairing solar panel arrays in orbit, and providing life-saving medical supplies to future space tourists.

SpaceRyde plans to run weekly launches to low-earth-orbit by 2025, and the expected cost per private trip is $250,000. If all goes smoothly, their first lunar mission will take place in 2024.

Asked about competition from established players like SpaceX, Safari explained that her company occupies a fundamentally different niche within the space industry.

"If SpaceX provides the highways of space, we provide the roads. SpaceX is working on taking people to Mars, but we think there's a big demand for rocket systems designed for shorter ranges".

Safari wrapped up her portion of the ceremony by saying "Today with this rocket factory, Canada is no longer going to wait in line to get to space, we are going to space on our own!" 

Although the company has investors from around the world, their team is entirely based in Canada, and they're currently working with eight interns from leading Canadian universities.

Safari believes it's SpaceRyde's responsibility to invest in the next generation of rocket scientists.

Due to the proprietary nature of SpaceRyde's technology, they won’t be able to accommodate field trips or public tours for the foreseeable future, but anyone willing to make the trek to Timmins Ontario is welcome to attend launch events for free.

The drive from Toronto takes about seven and a half hours, which certainly beats going all the way to Florida. Former ISS commander Chris Hadfield, who attended Tuesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony commented enthusiastically about ways that SpaceRyde's technology will enable a more prosperous and sustainable future.

Hadfield pointed out that we can't solve food insecurity, pollution, deforestation, or climate change without tools that help us quantifiably track the planet's health on a daily basis.

Hadfield stated that "It's so difficult and daunting to measure these things from the surface, but it's almost effortless to measure them from orbit. That's a great opportunity and a need that the folks at SpaceRyde are addressing by helping get these sensors into low earth orbit so that they can start serving humanity."

He added that "The solution [SpaceRyde] is building is really elegant." and concluded, "It's time for Canada to take a ride to space on SpaceRyde!"

Lead photo by

Robert Skuja Photography

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