It’s no longer strange to see rocket startups, but one company just broke new ground for environmentally responsible launches. Space.com reports that BluShift Aerospace has tested what it says is the first commercial booster rocket powered by biofuel. The Maine-based firm successfully launched its Stardust 1.0 sounding rocket on January 31st using a “bio-derived” solid fuel after multiple problems that included weather, valve pressure and igniters.
This was a modest test that reached just 4,000 feet before the 20-foot rocket parachuted back to Earth, but it proved the viability of BluShift’s MAREVL (Modular Adaptable Rocket Engine for Vehicle Launch) and associated biofuel.
The company hopes the launch will both attract investors and help pave the way for larger, more ambitious rockets. Stardust 2.0 (due later in 2021) will test higher speeds and longer flight times, while Starless Rogue is meant as an operational rocket that would carry suborbital payloads. Ultimately, BluShift hopes to debut a Red Dwarf vehicle that will carry payloads under 66lbs to low Earth orbit.
Like Rocket Lab and SpaceX’s rideshare program, BluShift is hoping to reduce the costs of launches and make them accessible to a wider range of companies and researchers. The difference, of course, is the fuel — it’s hoping its carbon neutral, non-toxic propellant will appeal to customers who want to minimize their impact on the planet. The challenge is convincing would-be clients that it’s worth trying BluShift over more established rivals, especially if they’re not particularly concerned about their environmental footprint.