Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 11, 2017 - 3:30 pm

Russian rocket debris unlikely to land in Canadian waters, GN says

“The GN is monitoring this situation”

The Inuit Circumpolar Council is worried about pieces of potentially toxic Russian space debris scheduled to fall near Pikialasorsuaq, also known as the North Water polynya, between Nunavut and Greenland. In a PSA this week, the Government of Nunavut described it, however, as a
The Inuit Circumpolar Council is worried about pieces of potentially toxic Russian space debris scheduled to fall near Pikialasorsuaq, also known as the North Water polynya, between Nunavut and Greenland. In a PSA this week, the Government of Nunavut described it, however, as a "very low risk event. (FILE PHOTO)

A Russian SS-19 rocket whose second stage, carrying a highly toxic fuel called hydrazine, will scatter debris between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, is not likely to land in Canadian waters, the Government of Nunavut said Oct. 10 in a public service announcement.

Last week, Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna condemned the upcoming Oct. 13 launch, which will carry a European Space Agency satellite into orbit, and demanded that it be halted.

“We can’t afford to have unknown amounts of hydrazine fuel land in the largest polynya in the northern hemisphere,” Taptuna said, referring to Pikialasorsuaq, also known as the North Water polynya, between Nunavut and Greenland.

But this week’s PSA, issued by Nunavut’s Department of Community and Government Services, downplays the potential environmental impact of the falling debris.

“The rocket is fueled with hydrazine. It is expected that the debris will fall outside of Canadian territorial waters and this is considered a very low risk event,” the statement said.

Last week, the Inuit Circumpolar Council also condemned the rocket launch, saying it should be halted at least until the environmental impact of falling space debris that possibly containes hydrazine can be assessed.

The old SS-19 rockets that Russia uses for such launches are left over from the Cold War, when they were originally designed to carry nuclear warheads.

But they have since been repurposed for commercial civilian use under a program called “Rockots.”

The type of fuel they carry, hydrazine, has been phased out by many countries due to its highly toxic properties. But it’s believed that any hydrazine contained in falling debris is likely to get burned up before it reaches the surface of the earth.

That’s what happened in June 2016, the last time a Russian rocket was launched over the Arctic.

At the same time, GN officials said they’re still in contact with the federal government about the upcoming event.

“Although very unlikely, if wreckage falls on land, there will be a coordinated effort to notify the public and recover the debris. The GN is monitoring this situation and will provide more information if necessary,” the PSA said.

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(12) Comments:

#1. Posted by Hunter on October 11, 2017

“not likely to land in Canadian waters” so where is it going to land? Just outside of Canadian waters but within the Pikialasorsuaq?

Still not very comforting.

#2. Posted by Agree with the Premier on October 11, 2017

I agree with the Premier, whether the rocket lands on Canadian waters or not, whether hydrazine is burnt up or not.

The area is rich in marine mammal resources shared both by Greenland and Nunavut.

Sheesh! Why are the Russians shooting up old rockets in the first place? What utility does the commercial civilian use really have? Why can’t they do it in their own Arctic waters?  Buggers

#3. Posted by Deborah Webster on October 11, 2017

I agree with the first person’s post. Where is this Russian rocket expected to land, exactly? Please see for a map indicating the location of Pikialasorsuaq, the North Water Polynya.

#4. Posted by Observer on October 11, 2017

“What utility does the commercial civilian use really have?”

The rocket is carrying European Space Agency satellites intended to monitor and measure climate change.

As for “why can’t they do it in their own waters”, where, exactly, do you think the rocket is coming from? The satellites are being placed in solar orbit, launched from inside Russia and traveling north, over their waters and crossing the Arctic Ocean. And as much as people might wish to think it otherwise, basic laws of physics are in effect here, not simply matters of choice.

#5. Posted by monitoring on October 11, 2017

GN is monitoring the situation ... from what? Nunavut space command?

#6. Posted by Inuit friend on October 11, 2017

My thoughts exactly number 5…lol

#7. Posted by Boney M on October 12, 2017

Oh those russians

#8. Posted by bob on October 12, 2017

Our ocean is like a glass of water. We have all sectioned off portions for each of the countries and designated other areas as shared or international waters. In the end it doesn’t matter whose part it lands on. The same concept can be applied to someone urinating upstream in a river- the guy further down taking a drink will never say “oh don’t worry, the pee is not in my area”.

#9. Posted by Jim MacDonald on October 12, 2017

This sounds like a Nunavut version of the USA democrats Russia, Russia, Russia loop.

If anyone to have the mission aborted, it would be talking to the top dogs at the Copernicus Programme, (Worlds largest single earth observation programme) directed by the European Commission and in partnership with the European Space Agency. 

Believe it is they who contracted with Russia to launch and using the modified Russia SS-19 rocket.

Copernicus is putting up a Sentinel-5 Precursor monitoring the atmosphere to map nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols.  Something Nunavut should be interested in, for the health of the people to know what levels are in the air we are breathing.

Probably using the SS-19 rocket because it is highly maneuverable, something highly desirable when placing a fine tuned mapping satellite.

The launch will be live steamed Oct 13.

#10. Posted by pissed off on October 12, 2017

From what we can read on a daily basis since the inception of Nunavut, I think that the GN should leave space issues to the Feds.

Like no 5 is saying we have plenty on our plate
( see:article on the Kimmirut Airport building)
Easy simple stuff!!


#11. Posted by A. Duffy on October 12, 2017

No-one was concerned while telesat (Canadian company the provides much of our communication.) launched the majority of their satellites from Russia in much the same way over the last few decades or so…

Using the internet or phone in Nunavut?  You can thank a rocket launched from Russia.

There are much more important issues than this to be concerned about.

#12. Posted by Inuit friend on October 12, 2017

Get your facts right before speaking up Nunavut don’t need to make yourselves look stupid and uninformed again in the problems of the world…

I’m sure someone with the proper expertise will be speaking on behalf of Canada..

Powers that be in Nunavut have much bigger fish to fry than this..look at the state of your territory

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