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Canadian Space Agency's Timmins balloon base gets an upgrade

The Canadian Space Agency has been using Timmins airport as its base of operations to launch stratospheric balloons for over a decade – both monitor the atmosphere and test out new technology.

The agency’s balloon base has been in need of upgrades and Thursday it unveiled their new multi-million dollar facility.

The new $5 million facility will boost the capacity of the Canadian and French space agencies to facilitate balloon launches for scientists across the globe.

Experts told CTV News that Timmins has proven to be the best place in the country to test out new technologies and observe greenhouse gas levels in the upper atmosphere – using stratospheric balloons.

“Timmins is uniquely located for access to latitudes, with a population that’s concentrated in this area, so we can conduct these balloon launches,” said Canadian Space Agency president Lisa Campbell.

“But also, it’s the people, it’s the partnerships. The commitment that we see, that’s allowed us to have 10 successful years, with seven balloon campaigns and now we’re growing.”

The upgraded facility represents a joint investment from all levels of government.

Officials said they expect the facility to provide ample room for storing and tinkering with balloon gondolas and the technologies they will be lifting far above the clouds.

“We can welcome bigger teams around gondolas, so then we have fewer gondolas,” said Philippe Vincent, a mechanical engineer with the agency.

“But if we would have smaller teams of scientists, we could double the capacity of the different gondolas that could host the different experiments.”

These gondolas can cost several million dollars and staff told CTV News they are actually much cheaper than other methods of studying the stars and the atmosphere.

The latest balloon campaign that recently launched is testing a sun-facing telescope, star trackers and equipment that studies the creation of the solar system.

Officials with the City of Timmins said the area is making a name for itself globally in several forms of science.

“Advancements in technology, in the mining sector, can benefit the space industry and vice versa,” said mayor Michelle Boileau.

“So, I think we’re well-poised to play a critical role in both.”

The new balloon base is even inspiring other country’s programs – with a team from Brazil in attendance for the ribbon cutting.

The site is used as both a testing ground for scientists and training ground for Canadian students. The base has facilitated around twenty-eight launches since 2012 – and staff said they expect that number to climb sky-high over the next decade. Top Stories

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