A “space Uber” built here

A company from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is preparing to launch the first Canadian rocket into orbit. It would also be the first-ever rocket to be launched into space from Canada thanks to a partnership with a shipping company.

Posted at 6:30am

Richard Dufour

Richard Dufour
The press

Reaction Dynamics, which eventually puts its ambitions in competition with the likes of SpaceX (owned by billionaire Elon Musk) and Rocket Lab (which is valued at around $3.5 billion on NASDAQ), is due to strike an agreement Wednesday with Maritime Launch Services, a site launch in Nova , Post Scotland.

This agreement allows Reaction Dynamics to become a rocket supplier for customers who want to send small satellites (average weight of 170 kg) into space at “low cost”.

A first test flight is planned for the end of the year, followed by a suborbital demonstration flight of the Aurora rocket in the middle of next year to validate the Quebec company’s technology. This demonstration flight in 2023 appears to be the first-ever launch from the Maritime Launch site in Nova Scotia.

Founded five years ago, Reaction Dynamics is a rocket manufacturer offering satellite launch services. “Our goal is to be a FedEx or an Uber for our customers,” said Bachar Elzein, Founder, CEO and CTO of Reaction Dynamics.

“We want the satellites to be able to reach very specific orbits and altitudes,” adds the Montrealer, who turns 33 next week.


PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

Bachar Elzein, Founder, CEO and CTO of Reaction Dynamics

We use a propulsion system that is ecologically superior to that of our competitors, but above all more affordable, which is due to the simplicity of the propulsion system we have developed.

Bachar Elzein, Founder, CEO and CTO of Reaction Dynamics

“We want to prove that it works in flight and not just on the ground. »

Greener Rockets

If Reaction Dynamics succeeds, the company could disrupt the space launch market.

Bashar Elzein is targeting a first orbital flight “approximately two years” after the demonstration flight is completed. “So we’re aiming for 2024,” says this former Polytechnique Montréal student.

Reaction Dynamics claims its rockets will emit 50% fewer tons of CO, according to recent tests2 comparable to the competition. If the impact of launches is marginal today, as the industry is expected to grow, it could quickly become crucial to protect the environment while ensuring frequent launches. With its technology, the company positions itself as one of the pioneers of sustainable access to space.

Maritime Launch went public last week and will build the launch pad near its headquarters in Canso, Nova Scotia, a small town south of Cape Breton Island right on the Atlantic Ocean.

The industry is growing, says Maritime Launch CEO Steve Matier. “Many Canadian satellite developers would like to take advantage of the country’s launch opportunities, including the government. It’s all part of working with Reaction Dynamics,” he said in an interview.

The industry as a whole is already valued at $400 billion. Canada has an opportunity to participate in this market.

Steve Matier, CEO of Maritime Launch

Bachar Elzein says he has in his pocket nearly half a billion dollars worth of letters of interest from a dozen customers in Canada, the United States and Europe interested in launching a Reaction Dynamics rocket.

“A lot of these customers do imaging and remote sensing, and when they put satellites into orbit, they can generate data,” he says.

Bachar Elzein also says he is in talks with telecom operators.

He estimates the potential market for Reaction Dynamics at around 10,000 satellites over the next 7 years. “And this number is growing every week,” says the entrepreneur with Lebanese roots.

Bachar Elzein is grateful to have had the support of private investors, Investissement Québec and the Canadian Space Agency so far.

He won’t reveal how much funding the company has received since its inception, but as an example he says: “A company that gets to the point where it’s able to develop and qualify orbital rocket engines usually needs between 50 and 100 million. We managed to do that for 10 times less. »

Reaction Dynamics is about to close a round of financing and now employs around 30 people. The CEO hopes that the company will have 100 employees within two years and 2000 employees within 5 to 6 years.

“The market is there. Many of the customers we speak to want to launch a satellite relatively quickly. There is a great demand for what we do. In order for us to seize this opportunity and capture this market as quickly as possible, we need to move fast. »

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