BluShift Aerospace launches first commercial biofuel rocket
BluShift Aerospace, a startup based in Brunswick, Maine, has launched its first prototype rocket called the Stardust 1.0. The rocket runs on solid fuel of "biological origin".
Stardust is designed to launch nanosatellites. It is 20 feet (6 meters) high and is capable of carrying a 17 lb (8 kg) payload.
It took BluShift several tries to get Stardust 1.0 up and running. The launch attempt on January 14 was prevented by bad weather. Then the start had to be postponed due to a pressure problem in the oxidizer valve.
“Everything went perfectly. She landed exactly where we hoped and where we planned. It couldn't have been better, ”BluShift CEO Sasha Deri told reporters after the current launch.
The prototype was launched from the runway at the Loring Commerce Center in Limestone, Maine.
The company ran into some problems at launch. At first, the rocket igniter did not fire as planned. The launch was also affected by freezing temperatures and network problems during the countdown.
But by mid-day, Stardust 1.0 had soared over 4,000 feet (1,219 m), then deployed its parachute and crashed to Earth. According to Deri, the parachute burst.
BluShift Aerospace was founded in 2014. The startup is working to organize regular launches of tiny satellites off the coast of Maine. “We want to become Uber in space by providing a nano launch service for nanosatellites,” Deri said ahead of the launch.
For this purpose, BluShift Aerospace has planned to build two larger suborbital missiles called Stardust 2.0 and Starless Rogue.
BluShift uses a Modular Adaptable Rocket Motor to Launch Vehicles (MARVEL) that runs on proprietary solid biofuel. The company claims it is non-toxic, carbon-neutral, and "can be purchased cheaply from farms across America." According to Deri, nitrous oxide sparged with oxygen is used as an oxidant.
BluShift now hopes to attract investor interest as the company needs to raise $ 650,000 to fund the development of Stardust 2.0 and its successors. The team members have already invested $ 500,000 of their own funds into the project and won a NASA grant for $ 125,000, and also raised funds from the Maine Institute of Technology.
The company is also looking for a new launch site on the Maine coast to house its larger missiles. If all goes well, BluShift could launch its first Stardust 2.0 rocket by the end of the year.
Earlier, MIT researchers unveiled a fully 3D printed thruster that uses pure ion emission for propulsion. The engine emits a stream of pure ions and can be used to create thrust when launching miniature satellites.
In the fall of 2020, another Alabama-based startup, Aevum, unveiled its own small satellite launch system called the Ravn X. It's an autonomous aircraft and launch vehicle. The system is designed to deliver satellites into space every 180 minutes. Both the aircraft and the launch vehicle use jet fuel as a propellant.