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Timmins' stratospheric balloon base could be getting bigger

Facility is partnership between Canadian Space Agency and France's Centre National d'Etudess Spatiale
2019-08-23 weather balloon MH
Sébastien Lafrance with the French telescope launched in 2019 as part of the stratospheric balloon research in Timmins. The telescope was for the experiment Pilot, and weighed 1,100 kilograms. (Maija Hoggett/TimminsToday)

Ongoing work could see the stratospheric balloon base in Timmins expand.

A $125,000 contract has been awarded to L360 Architecture to be the design and contract administration consultant for an expansion to the Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base. Council approved the item at its Jan. 11 meeting.

The facility is at the Timmins Victor M. Power Airport in a secured area near the Ministry of Natural Resources buildings. The city owns the base, which is leased to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

The stratospheric balloon launches are a partnership between the CSA and the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiale (CNES) in France. The two agencies began the balloon from the airport launches in 2015.

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

Airport manager Dave Dayment said the CSA is looking to move an antenna and add an elevator to the building that houses their offices and launch window. The CSA also wants to add a second payload integration building.

The design and administration is the first phase of the expansion, with the second phase being the request for proposals (RFP) for the new building. While the cost is not in this year's budget, the staff report says it would be recovered through a new land lease.

The city is working with Public Works Canada for a new land lease, said Dayment.

He said the building that went up about six or seven years ago has already been paid off and expanded with the addition of five ATCO trailers.

“They paid for all that infrastructure and improvement."

After the RFP for the new building is completed, Dayment said the CSA would decide whether or not to proceed with the expansion based on the cost.

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