A man holds a model rocket
Sascha Deri, CEO of Brunswick-based bluShift Aerospace, uses a model to demonstrate how the company's hybrid rocket will separate in space while launching satellites in this 2018 file photo. Credit: Beth Brogan / BDN

BluShift aerospace, which has been looking for locations Down East where it might launch small rockets into orbit, says it will also need two sites — one for manufacturing and another for mission control — for its operations.

The company has been seeking a launch site on the eastern Maine coast, which it says is well-suited for sending small satellites in north-south orbits over Earth’s poles. The company initial plans to launch from a small uninhabited island off Jonesport were met with stiff opposition.

Now bluShift says it will launch its rockets from a liftboat positioned a few miles offshore.

But to use a liftboat, which is a large, flat boat with long retractable posts or legs that can be lowered to the ocean floor, the company would need to have a mission control facility on land that has a clear line of sight to where the vessel is positioned, according to bluShift CEO Sascha Deri. It will also need a place to build the rockets.

Using a liftboat for launches “increases the options of where we can launch from, up and down the coast,” Deri said.

He said the company could build its rockets in one location and then launch them from another, as long as the facilities aren’t too far from each other. Having its manufacturing and launch sites 30 miles apart is feasible, he said.

BluShift would start with a few launches annually but over the next decade would increase to a maximum of around 30 per year. The company hopes to create 150 to 200 jobs Down East and would look to hire people with experience in welding, composites, machining, manufacturing and other skills to build the company’s rockets, which would have to be built new for each launch.

The rockets, which will be between 20 and 80 feet long and powered with non-toxic fuel, would carry small satellites known as cubesats south over the Gulf of Maine into orbit. The spent rockets would fall back into the ocean and then be retrieved and brought back to shore.

Deri said the company is still talking to residents and officials in Steuben, but has put out a formal request for information so that other towns that might be interested in hosting part of bluShift’s operations can contact the company.

“Those towns know their people and their resources the best,” Deri said.

Inquiries should be emailed to bluShift official Seth Lockman no later than May 26, company officials said.

Deri said bluShift already has been contacted by landowners and by a not-for-profit organization, which he declined to identify, about possible Downeast manufacturing or mission control locations.

The firm also is nearing an agreement to have the toxicity of its fuel independently analyzed by a third party, who will provide the results of the analysis directly to town officials in Steuben, he said.


Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....