Maine-based BluShift Aerospace launches of a singular rocket from a cold War Air Force base.
A small company took a serious step towards the truth of a ‘Spaceport Maine’ this past weekend. BluShift Aerospace successfully launched its first rocket after several attempts from Loring Commerce Center in Northern Maine this past weekend, with the lift-off of Stardust 1.0.
The day dawned clear, but a cold 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-26 degrees Celsius). The launch of the single-stage 20-foot high Stardust 1.0 rocket went off at 2:47 PM Eastern civil time (EST)/19:47 Greenwich Mean Time (UT) on Sunday, January 31st, reaching an apogee of 4,054 feet (1,236 meters). For the primary launch, the rocket was actually purposely under-fuelled to remain under FAA time and height restrictions for amateur rocketry, though the corporate has big plans for Stardust and a replacement generation of rockets, leading up to orbital launches from Maine in coming years.
This was Maine’s first commercial rocket launch, and therefore the first ever commercial rocket launch powered by a bio-derived fuel.
Several experiments and customer payloads were also loaded on Stardust 1.0, including:
-A student cubesat payload courtesy of Falmouth highschool complete with sensors, a transmitter and camera.
-Kellogg Research Labs based out of Nashua, New Hampshire included an experiment testing a vibration-dampening, memory shape nickel-titanium material for future rocket launches, referred to as nitinol.
-Rocket Insights also added a cubesat frame crammed with Duch wafer cookies, referred to as ‘stroopwafels,’ in tribute to their Netherlands-based parent company.
BluShift Aerospce CEO Sascha Deri told that everything looked very nominal. We also gathered data on Stardust and downloaded that yesterday. The pressures within the combustion chamber, our oxidizer tank, the fuel injector valves, everything looked almost like static tests here in Brunswick.
Stardust 1.0 is exclusive therein it utilizes a proprietary rocket propellant, during a modular hybrid liquid/solid fuelled rocket. The biofuel is obtained directly from farms all across America, says Deri. She added that the majority of the substance she found on her brother’s farm in north Yarmouth, Maine. It worked better than petroleum fuel as we tested it out. It’s also very on the brink of carbon neutral.
They actually performed tests on about 240 engines in the last four years leading up to the primary launch. You learn many ways to make the engine work where things fail and the way to repair things quickly. This technical expertise came in use during last Sunday’s launch allowing the team to troubleshoot and quickly reconfigure for a successful launch after two false starts. This capability is additionally a testament to the skills of the hybrid liquid-solid motor. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo also features an identical hybrid engine.
CEO Sasha Deri founded BluShift Aerospace in 2014 and based out of Brunswick in southern Maine, BlueShift Aerospace was awarded a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to develop its hybrid engine and fuel in mid-2019. BluShift Aerospace expects to feature a full-scale MAREVL (Modular Adaptable rocket for Vehicle Launch) motor on the company’s next launch, Stardust 2.0.
Until 1994 Loring Commerce Center was serving as Loring Air Force base. Loring was founded within the 1950s as a staging post for aircraft and cargo headed across the Atlantic to Europe, and later hosted B-52 bombers for Strategic Air Command during the conflict. Alongside Presque Isle Air Force Base, Loring was strategic as a jumping off point both to Europe and over the Arctic to the Soviet Union.
The launch was also placed on hold by a (possible) first in rocketry: a ‘snowmobile within the zone.’ The successful conclusion of the launch also featured the primary rocket recovery by snowmobile.
Watch for subsequent BluShift Aerospace launch from Loring sometime within the next year. Ultimately, BluShift Aerospace is looking to offer customer payloads 6-8 minutes of zero-g near apogee, longer than many sub-orbital flights. BluShift Aerospace plans to create more rockets, including a 3-stage red dwarf star rocket, capable of lofting a 66-pound (30 kilogram) payload into Low-Earth orbit.
The goal is for the sub-orbital Starless Rogue rocket to feature an equivalent payload capacity at red dwarf star. BluShift wants to try to orbital polar launches from an as of yet-to-be selected site along the coast of Maine starting in 2023. Though inland, Deri also notes that Loring in Northern Maine would still be a perfect site for ‘horizontal space launches’ almost like those mapped out of Mojave Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Congrats to BluShift Aerospace on putting the state of Maine within the private rocketry game, with potential for spaceflight missions to return.