A view of a bluShift biofuel rocket launching from Caribou in Aroostook County, in January 2021. Credit: Courtesy of bluShift Aerospace / Courtesy of bluShift Aerospace

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The Maine-based space startup bluShift Aerospace has signed on to sell rockets powered by bio-derived fuel to the Virginia-based STEM company MaxIQ, which works with students to help them launch experiments.

The agreement includes plans for test flights, orbital and suborbital launches, with each containing 60 data-gathering experiments.

MaxIQ is a company that provides educational and development programs for students looking to get into STEM fields and the space industry. The experiments put aboard bluShift rockets will be made by students, using modular kits provided by MaxIQ.

“The announcement we have today really propels the company forward,” said Sascha Deri, the CEO of bluShift, in a Q&A held with investors and members of the media over Zoom on Wednesday, June 24. “This is an incredible major milestone for bluShift.”

Judi Sandrock, the president of MaxIQ, who spoke from South Africa at the Zoom meeting, talked about the new partnership.

“Until bluShift came along, MaxIQ had not been able to secure a reliable launch partner for student-led science payloads,” Sandrock said. “It is very important to be able to secure affordable space launches for student payloads so that students may further their academic research and help all of humanity understand the dramatic changes taking place here on Earth.”

The agreement comes less than a month after bluShift said it was closing in on its fundraising goal to launch a new rocket into orbit from the Maine coastline sometime in 2022. The company performed a successful launch in January from the former Loring Air Force base in Aroostook County, becoming the first company in the world to commercially launch a bio-derived fuel rocket.

While Deri reiterated there were no plans for bluShift to do further launches in Aroostook, he said that other companies, such as fellow Maine-based space company Valt Enterprises, were looking into the area to test launches.

“There are numerous efforts afoot to try and develop funding for that location to support horizontal launching,” Deri said, referring to a type of test launch that occurs from the underside of a plane. “We will be going the way of launching over the ocean.”