Redoaune Al Faki

Redoaune Al Faki

Muhammad Institute wants to build B.C. space launch site

MONTREAL — The head of the Muhammad Institute for Space Science, dedicated to putting the Islamic world back at the forefront of scientific discovery, wants to build a space-launch facility in Canada.

MONTREAL — The head of the Muhammad Institute for Space Science, dedicated to putting the Islamic world back at the forefront of scientific discovery, wants to build a space-launch facility in Canada.

Redouane Al Fakir’s goal has been to return Muslims to the place of pride they held, centuries ago, as world leaders in astronomy.

But the Vancouver astrophysicist wants all Canadians to be involved in his project. His proposed commercial space port would be the first of its kind in this country — and Al Fakir says it’s about time.

The way he sees it, if countries like India, China and Japan can launch satellites into space, why not Canada?

“It’s becoming more and more untenable, in my opinion, that Canada has no launching capabilities,” Al Fakir said in an interview.

So the 50-year-old father of two, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia, decided to do something about it.

Last month, Al Fakir used a public forum to kick off his plan for Space Launch Canada — a landmark facility he dreams of building off the coast of British Columbia.

Its goal would be to launch missions into Earth’s orbit and to other solar-system destinations like the moon, Mars and beyond.

Al Fakir is looking at two coastal sites for the facility: Tofino and Prince Rupert, which are fairly secluded locations but are accessible by road — ideal conditions for a space port.

He says he’s secured $250,000 in startup money from overseas and has begun an international fundraising drive to raise the estimated $100 million it would take to build the facility.

Al Fakir recently travelled to Doha, Qatar, to talk with officials close to the government about his plans. He says he’s excited about the support he’s received.

“I was happily surprised to discover that they were very enthusiastic about doing that kind of thing,” he said.

Aside from Qatar, he hopes to work with other Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“Of course, these countries are really one big entity culturally — and we kind of wanted to group our collaboration under the Islamic world with the Gulf states and other countries like Malaysia and Indonesia,” he said.

Al Fakir also hopes to use the Muhammad institute’s connections to get non-government investors for the project.

His non-profit institute, founded in 2008, is located on the campus of the University of British Columbia.

It cites on its website two chief goals:

— “Giving the Islamic world community a top-level scientific space institution it can call its own.”

— “Contributing to the promotion of British Columbia as a world hub for space science and technology.”

“The Muhammad Institute for Space Science is a framework for collaboration between Canada and the Islamic World at large, which includes not only the Muslim World community but also the many religious and ethnic minorities that are culturally part of the great Islamic civilization,” says the group’s website.

The fiscal mountain ahead is a considerable one.

Al Fakir says consultants have told him $100 million would cover the cost of a basic launch pad and the necessary infrastructure.

“That’s without developing your own (launch) vehicle,” he said.

Al Fakir says it would cost $500 million to complete the space port while also developing a Canadian rocket launcher.

Scientists, academics and players in the Canadian space industry have often lamented the absence of rocket-launching facilities in this country.

The issue came up repeatedly at the recent annual conference of the Canadian Space Society in Ottawa.

Al Scott, a scientist for an aerospace company, says he welcomes the proposed Space Launch Canada.

“I’d say it’s doable and reasonable,” he said in an interview.

“The feasibility, in my opinion, comes from the mix of the people that you have and how strong your financial support is. . .

“It’s a challenge, but people have been doing this for several years now and if you get the right people, it can be done.”

Al Fakir told The Canadian Press his target is to complete the space-port project by 2015.

But Scott says that’s a tall order.

“Five years is awfully tight, in my opinion,” the scientist said.

“You could get your first prototype in that time scale, but I wouldn’t fly it on the first mission.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read