LIMESTONE, Maine — About half a dozen bluShift Aerospace crew members were on the way Wednesday to the Loring Commerce Centre, formerly known as the Loring Air Force Base, where they will prepare the Stardust 1.0 rocket for launch on Sunday morning.
The Stardust is 20 feet tall, 14 inches in diameter, weighs about 650 pounds and cost nearly $1 million to build. And when it touches the sky, the Stardust will make history as the world’s first commercial launch of a rocket powered by a bio-derived fuel.
Seth Lockman, communications director at bluShift Aerospace, said Wednesday while on his way to Limestone that he’s feeling positive about the second attempt.
“I can’t speak for everybody but I’m definitely less nervous this time,” he said. “I know the procedure. I know the area. There’s less unexplored territory this time around. We know that the rocket behaved perfectly last time. All we really need is the weather.”
The launch was originally scheduled for Jan. 15, but cloud cover blocked bluShift from receiving the required Federal Aviation Administration approval. As the crew packed up for the day, they tentatively planned to launch on Jan. 20, but the skies didn’t clear.
The company confirmed Thursday that it plans to launch at 10 a.m. on Sunday, with the event itself starting at 9 a.m.
“We are fortunate to have experienced weatherman Russ Murley, from National Weather Forecasting, Inc., advising us,” PR Consultant Betta Stothart said. “Murley has predicted fair skies on the morning of January 31. However, it should be noted that rocket launches can often be delayed for a variety of reasons, including weather, which can change quickly. We’ll keep you posted if we are delayed.”
Now, they’re looking at noon on Sunday, as a potential time to launch, according to spokesperson Betta Stothart. As of Wednesday afternoon, the company had not confirmed a specific time.
And while the rocket is only briefly in the sky, the crew needs between three and four days of advance notice in order to travel from the greater Brunswick area to Limestone, and reintegrate the rocket and restage the launch tower.
In order to launch, the crew needs 48 hours with cloud cover that is less than half of the flight ceiling, or 5,200 above sea level, in addition to calm winds.