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New hall being built at Timmins stratospheric balloon base

Four zero-pressure balloons and five meteorological balloons are being launched this year
2019-08-23 weather balloon MH
S├ębastien Lafrance with the French telescope that was part of the 2019 stratospheric balloon research in Timmins. Maija Hoggett/TimminsToday

With the first phase of expansion work at the Timmins stratospheric balloon base wrapping up, the next phase has been given the green light. 

While the federal government will cover the cost of the expansion through a new lease with the City of Timmins, airport manager Dave Dayment also wants ongoing operating costs to be covered in the agreement.

At a special meeting this afternoon, Timmins council awarded a $4.1 million contract to CGV Builders to build a new hall and add an elevator to an existing building at the site located at the Timmins Victor M. Power Airport in a secured area near the MNR buildings. The city owns the base, which is leased to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The launches are a partnership between the CSA and French space agency.

The expansion is to give scientists more room to work on payloads, especially early in the launches when there are weather delays or multiple projects ongoing.

“We’ve worked a lot of hours on this project because the buildings are ours; they do belong to the city when they are paid for,” Dayment said.

There are ongoing operating costs for the buildings.

“My review has been we’ve been subsidizing it and I don’t want to do it anymore,” he told council. 

When scientists are using the facility, he said the city receives $15,000 per campaign. 

The site hasn't been used for the last two years and Dayment said the airport lost that money.

The city has applied to FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to help cover the construction costs. Even if those are not granted, Dayment said the full cost will be covered by the federal government. The City of Timmins has a letter of intent from the Canadian Space Agency to ensure this. 

In January, L360 Architecture was hired to be the design and contract administration consultant for the expansion, which is the first phase of the expansion. Cy Rheault Construction Ltd. won a $148,654 contract in May to relocate a garage and small trailer on the site and complete site work. Dayment expected that work to be done on July 26.

Building the new hall is expected to take 28 weeks. 

“They won’t be able to start this ‘til September, which is a little push for a foundation. They want to get the foundation in before winter,” said Dayment.

2022 launches

There will be balloon launches this year. 

Next month, four zero-pressure balloons carrying six payloads will be launched to test new technologies, conduct science experiments and take measurements, according to the Canadian Space Agency website.

"In addition, five meteorological balloons will be launched with educational payloads onboard," reads the website.

"The goal of the campaign is to provide post-secondary students with the unique opportunity to design, build and test small payloads. The payloads will launch aboard a high-altitude balloon system, provided by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and will give students enough experience to perform their own balloon launches. As part of the launches, the teams are introduced to engineering project processes and produce technical and progress reports in different phases."

The first stratospheric balloon campaign in Timmins in 2013 was a qualification campaign. 

Launches were also made in 2014, 2015 and 2019.

For a better idea of what the stratospheric base does, check out a story about the 2019 launch here.

— TimminsToday