BRUNSWICK, Maine — Brunswick-based bluShift Aerospace, which earlier this year made world history in Limestone by launching the first commercial rocket powered by a bio-derived fuel, is now less than $2,000 away from the half million dollars it needs to build its new rocket that will reach suborbital space and launch from the Maine coast.
The company is working on a new model of the Modular Adaptable Rocket Engine for Vehicle Launch engine for its new rocket — the Starless Rogue. This engine will be up to 10 times more powerful than the MAREVL engine used in the Stardust 1.0 that was launched in Limestone in January.
The team hopes to launch the Starless Rogue off the coast of Maine in the summer of 2022.
And while the team had previously planned to launch an improved iteration of the Stardust rocket at Limestone’s Loring Commerce Centre, which was the site of the northern Maine border town’s iconic former Loring Air Force Base, bluShift CEO Sascha Deri said in an investor Q&A held through Zoom on Wednesday that this is extremely unlikely.
“We originally planned to do that at the end of the summer, but we had to forego it because when we dug way down into the details of launching the Stardust 2.0, it would have put in danger our timeline for launching the Starless Rogue, which is really where we’re going to generate revenue and really become a sustainable, financially viable business,” Deri said.
He said the team’s primary reason for choosing Limestone again would be to test various technologies being added to the engine before launching it over the ocean.
“Instead we decided there are other ways for doing this testing, including putting some of this gear up in planes — which is not half as cool as launching the rocket again, but it’s a little more cost feasible and will not put our timeline in danger,” Deri said.
Deri told investors that bluShift is eyeing a number of possible launch locations, adding that it cannot yet reveal anything specific. He said he has been in conversation with a number of homeowners and families on some coastal peninsulas.
The Starless Rogue will have the ability to carry a dozen 3U cubesats in each of the two payload areas, which will be designed to accommodate unique payloads in addition to cubesats. Cubesats are nanosatellites, measured in 10 by 10 centimeter units, that are used for research, according to NASA.
“What we learned from doing customer interviews is that, yes, some of them are using cubesat form factors for doing suborbital research, but many of them just want to do basic science and they don’t want to be constricted by the cubesat form factor, so what you’ll see is that our payload area is actually sized to support payloads much larger than what would otherwise be used for 30 kilograms,” he said.
The current round of fundraising is set for $1.07 million and will help fund the development of the new engine. The next round will be between $1 million and $2 million and fund the actual launch of the Starless Rogue Beta into suborbital space, assisting in all aspects of the event, including ground support systems.
The company hopes to develop and launch its Red Dwarf rocket into orbital space as early as 2024.
Deri said the company’s goal with fundraising is not to request any more money than what is needed to develop the rocket. He said that while startups of a similar size may go after hundreds of millions in funding, bluShift has decided not to do that.
“I want this to be an ongoing, sustainable business,” he said. “The funding, for me, is to get us to the point where we’re generating enough revenue so we can subsist as a healthy, profitable, growing company on our own revenue.”