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Timmins airport renews stratospheric balloon program

Initiative is a partnership between the airport, the Canadian Space Agency and France’s Centre National d’Étude Spatiales
From left, Canadian Space Agency president Sylvain Laporte, Timmins Mayor Steve Black, and Centre National d’Étude Spatiales president Jean-Yves Le Gall sign a letter of intent to continue their work at the Timmins airport. (Supplied photo)

Timmins has renewed its agreement with France’s Centre National d’Étude Spatiales (CNES) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to continue the stratospheric balloon test program at the city’s airport.

Initiated in 2013, the stratospheric balloon testing program was established in Timmins due to the city’s meteorological patterns and its low population density.

The research balloons are launched to gather scientific information, demonstrate and test technology, and train the next generation of aerospace engineers and space scientists.

The three partners signed a letter of intent to continue the operation on Aug. 23.

In 2018, five balloons – each with a specific purpose – are expected to be launched.

CSA president Sylvain Laporte said a benefit of the program is engaging students at an early age, thereby encouraging them to pursue a career in science.

 “We have in place a long-term agreement, but when this was first started back in 2013, there was a lot of trial and error in terms of how do we do this, what are the respective roles of each other, how long should we look at collaborating,” Laporte said in a news release. 

“But clearly, after about five years of operations of this program, although our long-term agreement is not coming to an end, we’ve seen sufficient benefits to signal to our teams and to the region and the town, that we’re looking at continuing this collaboration for the long term because it’s very beneficial to us, and hopefully the town and the region sees the benefits of having this program in Timmins as well.”

The partners plan to grow the range of balloons used to include small, lightweight, expandable balloons, which will enable the demonstration of new technologies.