LIMESTONE, Maine — bluShift Aerospace’s rocket launch, which would have been the world’s first commercial launch of a rocket powered by bio-derived fuel, was tentatively moved to Jan. 20 after the company waited most of Friday for the cloud cover to dissipate.
The launch will represent the culmination of six and a half years of hard work and innovation and the development of a proprietary, bio-derived fuel by bluShift, based in Brunswick. In addition to being the first commercial launch of a rocket powered by the bio-derived fuel, it is also the first commercial rocket launch in Maine to the company’s knowledge, Communications Director Seth Lockman said.
The team experienced numerous delays throughout the day Friday due to cloudy skies. bluShift CEO Sascha Deri said they need to give the Federal Aviation Administration notice an hour prior to launch, then another notice 15 minutes prior and a final notice when the launch is finished.
bluShift only had until 4 p.m. to launch the shuttle, and at 2 p.m. Deri notified those attending there would be one final update within the hour. And just before 3 p.m., he announced that the launch would be rescheduled.
“It ultimately depends on what Mother Nature provides us or doesn’t provide us,” Deri said. “So we might have done our jobs perfectly, but Mother Nature can prevent us from launching, and this is normal. The FAA requires a certain amount of cloud covering, or lack thereof, before you can launch, so it is what it is.”
The fuel powering the Stardust 1.0 prototype rocket is proprietary, meaning bluShift will not reveal the specific formula. Communications Director Seth Lockman said the fuel is completely non-toxic, contains no cryogenic ingredients, is not explosive without an igniter and is carbon neutral.
For the time being, the fuel is being referred to as the “fuel core” or “bio-derived fuel.”
The launch was originally scheduled for November, but was delayed as testing revealed new possibilities to enhance the rocket’s design. Some of the improvements included improvements to O-rings, extra heat shielding added to key areas across the rocket, particularly around the combustion chamber and within the telemetry area, telemetry improvements for datalink reliability and improvements to the launch trailer heat shielding so it can be reused, Deri said.
The new fuel will demonstrate a low-cost and reliable alternative to traditional fuel while maintaining efficiency, the company said. With the launch of the Stardust 1.0, bluShift hopes to stimulate the growing aerospace market in the state. It also hopes to demonstrate the growing demand for suborbital launches of small payloads within the academic and civil research market.
“Our team of staff and investors is aiming high and hoping to create an ecologically responsible aerospace industry with the words ‘Made in Maine’ on it,” Deri said.