Brunswick-based bluShift Aerospace is negotiating the contract for grant proposal the company submitted to NASA this year.

A bluShift Aerospace rocket is shown during a recent test. The company hopes to create 40 aerospace jobs in Maine over the next five years. Photo Courtesy bluShift Aerospace

The Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research grant will help bluShift develop its fully modular hybrid rocket engines, referred to as MAREVLs (Modular Adaptable Rocket Engine for Vehicle Launch), said Seth Lockman, communications director bluShift Aerospace. The company is headquartered at TechPlace, at Brunswick Landing.

Modern orbital rockets are made up of two or more stages. Different stages use different engine types, each optimized for a specific part of the ascent. With MAREVL, each stage will have different numbers of the same hybrid engine in which liquid oxidizer combines with a solid fuel to reduce the complexity, weight and cost of the engine.

“We are developing a modular hybrid rocket engine that will use a bio-derived solid fuel to launch cubesats into low-Earth orbit,” Lockman said. Cubesats are miniature satellites usually used for communications or research.

He said that by perfecting and using a single, simple class of engine on all stages of a rocket, bluShift will attempt to lower costs associated with research, development, and manufacturing of any rocket powered by it. Mass production will further lower the cost of the engine as any stage powered by three or more engines can steer by throttling instead of rotating the engines, further reducing weight and complexity.

Ultimately MAREVL will allow more frequent and more affordable launches. Any loss in efficiency will be made up for in overall cost savings, and be negated by bluShift’s proprietary bio-derived fuel, which is carbon-neutral.

The funding comes at a much needed time for the bluShift, which wants to accelerate R&D to produce a working prototype.

“This is an incredible opportunity to develop hi-tech here in my home state, diversify Maine’s economy, and keep more of our bright young tech people here in Maine in the future,” said Sascha Deri, bluShift founder and CEO.

Founded in 2014, bluShift Aerospace is designing a bio-derived rocket fuel, and a small rocket that can lift 50-kilogram payloads to low-Earth orbit. This new launch system will dramatically reduce the environmental impact, cost, and wait times of current cubesat launch services.

According to Lockman, by launching these rockets in the state, bluShift plans to create over 40 aerospace jobs in Maine over the next five years, and to bring revenue from the rapidly growing cubesat launch market into the state.

 


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