Eco-friendly rocket startup bluShift Aerospace announced Wednesday that it will build a base of operations in the Washington County fishing village of Steuben, but the company’s founder and CEO said its engineering team will continue to work primarily out of Brunswick.

“A lot of effort and time has been put in to build up (our Brunswick) infrastructure,” bluShift CEO Sascha Deri said. “I don’t think we want to move it any time soon, if ever.”

Based at Brunswick Landing’s TechPlace, bluShift plans to carry research payloads and small satellites sub orbitally and into low orbit with its biofuel-powered rockets. It hopes to conduct its first commercial launch in 2023.

The team initially planned to build rockets in Brunswick but now expects those operations to move to a facility in Steuben, Deri said.

“The skill sets of the folks in the coastal community fit in really well with the type of work we will be doing,” he said. “The designing and engineering of rockets is rocket science. Building them is really just ship manufacturing.”

Steuben has a strong pool of workers with skills like welding, composites work and machining, which means bluShift won’t need to look far to recruit talent, Deri said. And by building its manufacturing base near the launch site off Steuben’s coast, bluShift will be able to efficiently retrieve and repair its reusable rockets after launch.


The company estimates that the manufacturing facility could produce 150-200 new jobs in the next 5-7 years, a major selling point for Steuben residents worried about the economic future of the town.

“What’s our grandchildren got?” asked Larry Pinkham, chair of the Steuben Selectmen. “Take fishing away, we have nothing. So I think the jobs is the number one goal of this whole thing.”

Pinkham said he and others in town were initially skeptical when bluShift proposed their launch site. Like the residents of Jonesport, who voted in December 2021 to approve a six-month ban on commercial rocket launches, Pinkham was concerned about the potential impact on fishermen.

Yet Deri, who said the Jonesport vote was the result of rampant “hearsay and rumors” managed to assuage those fears in Steuben, thanks partly to the help of Robert Bayer, professor emeritus of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Maine and former director of the Lobster Institute. Bayer found that the presence of bluShift’s proprietary solid rocket fuel had no effect on lobsters, which are notoriously sensitive.

“It’s totally innocuous,” Bayer said of the fuel, which does not dissolve in water. “There’s nothing more harmless I can think of, really.”

BluShift’s commitment to environmentally friendly rocket launches has contributed to the steady stream of interest from engineers hoping to join the startup, Deri said. While some Midcoast businesses have reported difficultly recruiting employees due to a housing shortage, Deri said bluShift has had no trouble finding scientists willing to move to Brunswick, where the company will continue to conduct dozens of rocket tests.

Besides tapping into what Deri says is a $20 billion market to launch small satellites, bluShift hopes to help transform Maine into a destination for talented young workers.

“We have a long history of our number one export being our people,” he said. “We have an exciting opportunity to take the whole of this New Space industry and make it an important part of our economy.”

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