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VIDEO: Maine Rocket Maker bluShift to Soon Announce a Local Launch Site

Mon October 18, 2021 - Northeast Edition

Sascha Deri, founder and CEO of bluShift Aerospace in Brunswick, Maine, said on an Oct. 6 investor call that the rocket-making company is close to selecting a site in downeast Maine for its planned commercial liftoffs.

MaineBiz reported that Deri told investors that the launch facility is planned for an unbridged island in Washington County, although he would not disclose the exact location.

"We found a town and a site that has been incredibly welcoming to what we're doing, to the concept of developing new types of jobs here in the state of Maine, in a town that's more traditionally known for fishing and lobstering," Deri said.

He did go as far as to say that bluShift is working with an attorney to create a lease agreement with the island's owner.

"We are very, very close to announcing the launch site," Deri said, adding that the island "seems to be particularly well suited for what we do."

HIs confidence in the deal is such that bluShift has begun working with the local school in the town where the island is located to include a student-made payload in the complex's first launch, which is expected to be next summer, according to MaineBiz.

Rockets Built to Be Eco-Friendly

bluShift, based at Brunswick Landing, is developing a line of eco-friendly rockets to provide affordable, sustainable space launch services. The company is targeting universities, corporations and federal agencies that want to launch nanosatellites as far as 400 mi. above the Earth.

Last January, it launched Maine's first commercial rocket and the world's first biofuel-powered commercial prototype rocket, called Stardust 1.0, from the Loring Commerce Centre in Limestone, formerly known as Loring Air Force Base.

New Infrastructure Needed for Future Space Shots

Deri said he recently toured the unnamed location with members of a construction company experienced in building on islands.

The site will involve building infrastructure that, at minimum, will include a heavy-duty wharf capable of craning a bluShift rocket in and out of a boat or barge, Deri explained. In addition to a launchpad, the facility will require a short road or pathway, and storage and payload buildings.

Both bluShift's launch facility and test site will be solar powered and come equipped with backup generators. The power system will utilize a brand of lithium batteries called KiloVault, which are produced by a renewable energy equipment provider called altE, which Deri also founded and leads.

Mission Control Also Could Be on An Island

Additional infrastructure will be needed, the most important of which is a mission control facility, along with three ground-based antenna arrays on the mainland. MaineBiz reported that Deri has identified a possible site for bluShift's mission control building that is also on an island but is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

One antenna array is planned to be close to the launchpad, while a second will be a couple of miles distant, and the third almost 25 mi. away. Deri said that bluShift has come to an agreement with an institute close to Bar Harbor where it can locate the third array, which will be capable of communicating with the rocket up to its apogee, or highest point in its orbit.

In the investor call, he said he met Oct. 1 with a group of residents who were open to bluShift's use of an undeveloped parcel of land in their community to install a ground control facility. The property has a straight line of sight from the planned facility to the launch site, Deri explained, and it also would allow bluShift to host the public to view its rocket launches.

Rockets To Get Progressively Larger

The company is now building a larger biofuel-powered Modular Adaptable Rocket Engine for Vehicle Launch, or MAREVL for short, for successively bigger rockets.

The engine will go into the next rocket iteration, the 50-ft.-tall Starless Rogue, for suborbital launches.

Investment in the basic island-based infrastructure for the launch of Starless Rogue is expected to be about $1 million, said Deri. MaineBiz reported that bluShift expects to get permitting, design and engineering under way this winter to begin infrastructure construction in time to launch Starless Rogue on a test flight next summer.

Deri Eyes Future bluShift Growth

According to Deri, the aerospace company is also exploring possible launch sites outside of Maine. He told investors that he has been contacted by the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Additional launch sites, he noted, would allow the company to offer its nanosatellite launch services year-round, rather than the April-to-October timeframe envisioned for Maine launches.

Within the next four to five years, Deri's goal is to grow bluShift from its current employee roll of fewer than a dozen, to 40 or 50 employees.

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