BluShift Aerospace, a Brunswick-based rocket startup, has taken its next step toward teaming up with students to launch scientific experiments into space.

BluShift announced April 22 that it received the first payment toward its inaugural $30,000 launch contract with MaxIQ Space, a Virginia-based Space STEM educator and space launch broker.  This contract will give university students from the U.S. and abroad the opportunity to launch student-designed experiments into space. One-third of the money for the launch will come from grants and the rest will come from the budget of the students’ educational institutions.

This announcement comes after BluShift exceeded its goal in raising $1.1 million in crowdfunding equity as it prepares for a second test of its full-scale hybrid rocket engine powered by a bio-derived fuel.

MaxIQ Space designed a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program so that it can deliver kits anywhere in the world. These STEM kits contain electronic components and sensors, specifically selected for experimentation. 

This enables students to design and assemble their own devices, gathering data with the sensors and transferring data back to Earth. The students learn to track and analyze data, conduct experiments to learn about the environment and review the data live on the cloud dashboard. 

“We develop these [circuit] boards for rural schools in Southern Africa where they can actually build their own electronics using connectors,” said Judi Sandrock, co-founder of MaxIQ Space. “Therefore, they do not need laboratories, or anything fancy in terms of equipment but what they can do is build this payload with the sensors so they can put them into space. However, without Sascha or BluShift Aerospace, they would not be able to do it because it just would not be affordable.” 


Sascha Deri, CEO and founder of BluShift Aerospace, said that one flight to space could launch information for hundreds of educational institutions across the world. 

“I think it is important to point out that not only are they the ones developing this exciting technology for students to use but they are also effectively an integrator which is what we refer to as a launch broker,” Deri said. “They integrate information from dozens if not hundreds of customers into a single package that they will deliver to us and then we put it into the rocket to launch. So, on any one flight we might think that we are launching for MaxIQ but we are really launching for like, maybe, 120 colleges, universities and high schools across the world at a time.” 

Sandrock added: “We started doing this type of experiment for students in 2015. We have had a number of launchers where students have been able to put their payloads into space. In fact, we have had more than 80 students at large go into space but what we are doing is ramping that up. We have to scale that because there are millions of schools around the world that want to participate in this kind of program.”  

Deri said he is interested in expanding globally to give everyone an equal opportunity.  

“We are extra excited because there are many parallels between South Africa and Maine in terms of lack of access to cutting edge technology, in this case, space,” he said. “It fits so well with our general desires, STEM and specifically Maine students. Although, we are also interested in doing this experiment at a global level as well so that we can give everyone equal opportunity.” 

BluShift is aiming to have its launch before the end of the year. However, the timing is dependent on the next round of funding. They are raising $6.5 million to build up this launch vehicle and to begin building up their infrastructure for launching in Maine. 

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