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June 30, 2022

Brunswick rocket-maker bluShift Aerospace chooses Steuben for its launch site

person smiling with machinery PHOTO / FRED FIELD Sascha Deri, founder of bluShift Aerospace, said he’s selected Steuben as the location for his company’s launch site. Deri is seen here in front of a building where the rocket maker got its start.

After reviewing several applications through a request-for-information process, the site of bluShift Aerospace’s future sea-based launches, mission control and manufacturing facility has been chosen.

The Brunswick startup said Wednesday it selected Steuben, a coastal town of 1,129 people in Washington County.

The RFI shortlisted several potential towns, which was then narrowed to Steuben.

The selection was based on the location’s proximity to a suitable off-shore launch site, existing physical and human capital assets, and willingness to provide permitting assistance and economic development tools such as tax increment financing.

The competitive RFI process for towns in the coastal Downeast region began in May. The deadline for submissions was June 20.

The company is calling its base of operations a “sustainable space complex.” It’s expected to include a manufacturing facility and mission control. 

“Over several visits to meet and chat with residents of Steuben, I was struck by the creativity of folks to find suitable locations and their inherent skills such as welding, composites work and machining, which is exactly what we need for our manufacturing,” bluShift’s founder and CEO, Sascha Deri, said in a news release.

aerial of woods and water
Courtesy / Town of Steuben
Town officials in Steuben responded to a solicitation from Brunswick rocket-maker bluShift in the latter’s quest to find a launch site.

Steuben Select Chair Larry Pinkham said the town applied for consideration after the neighboring community of Jonesport voted to put a moratorium on aerospace operations.

“The town of Steuben has the right geography, the right people and the right attitude for this exciting opportunity,” said Pinkham. 

Pinkham said that through the RFI process, the select board learned that Steuben offers launch corridors over the Atlantic Ocean that the company considers to be ideal for launching rockets to polar orbit. He said that Steuben and neighboring towns can also offer a workforce with skills that fit the company’s needs, including machining, welding, composites, electrical, boat operations and ocean navigation.

During the last few months, Deri has met with Steuben’s select board and attended several town council meetings to determine if the town was a good fit for bluShift. 

The goal is to build and launch small suborbital and orbital rockets in the town, he said.

Deri said his company has conducted an initial survey of potential manufacturing locations and expects an analysis and approval process with Steuben’s code enforcement office and select board in the coming months. BluShift also expects to conduct an environmental impact study as part of a Federal Aviation Administration approval process.

The company’s launch model allows rockets to be propelled to space off a lift-boat – a large flat boat with long retractable legs that can be lowered to the ocean floor. The plan includes a mission control facility situated with clear sightlines to the lift-boat so that guests and customers can watch the launches. 

The FAA has confirmed that bluShift can launch during the evening or night. The company expects to launch four to six orbital and suborbital rockets in its first few years, growing to a maximum of 32 annually. 

Because of seasonal weather factors, launches are expected to occur between the months of April and October. Evening launches and state-mandated no-fishing times between Memorial and Labor days are also favored because they occur when fishing boats will be back in harbor, avoiding conflict with fishermen. 

bluShift would locate a manufacturing facility in Steuben for building the rockets. That’s expected to result in up to 200 new jobs in the next five to seven years.

Why Downeast Maine?

“Maine is an ideal location for launching rockets because, unlike other U.S. locations, it can offer a safe polar orbit trajectory over the Atlantic Ocean that does not endanger human populations or wildlife,” said Deri. 

Deri said the company’s nontoxic bio-derived fuel would not pose a risk of pollution when the small rockets return to Earth.

BluShift and Steuben leaders are now working to identify a location to site a mission control and a customer center for bluShift, with payload preparation, rocket storage, logistical support, and meeting and housing facilities for bluShift personnel and customers.

Deri said demand for fast, reliable, clean launch services is growing quickly. The plan is for bluShift to offer small satellite customers frequent and flexible launch times using a proprietary non-toxic, bio-derived fuel, in an industry otherwise reliant on fossil fuels.

Earlier this year, the company announced its first launch contract with Virginia-based space STEM educator and launch broker MaxIQ Space.

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July 1, 2022

Diversifying Maine’s revenue while attracting technical and skilled workers will keep the state’s & county’s finances healthier than relying on just tourism dollars. Everything MUST adapt or risk dying out from stagnating with a single mindset. The fact that a more environmental conscious aerospace company than most is choosing Maine should be applauded. The Pinkham family ran town of Steuben knows the benefits of this endeavor and the investment opportunities it brings. Welcome to Maine blueShift!

July 1, 2022

Unregulated rocket launches proliferating are damaging to environment no matter what's in the secret fuel. If it burns, it produces carbon. Also toxic fallout when rockets fall back to Earth. Also ozone damage in many cases. If we trash our environment for profit, will the tourists who provide much of Maine's revenue still come to Vacationland?

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