Luke Saindon of bluShift Aerospace, a Brunswick-based startup, lowers a nose cone onto the payload portion of a rocket before a test firing of the biofuel-powered rocket engine, right, on Jan. 5, 2021, at the facility near Brunswick Landing. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald file photo

The town of Jonesport may decide by June whether to allow Brunswick-based rocket company bluShift Aerospace to construct a $2 million commercial launch site.

A town of approximately 1,300 people in the Down East region, Jonesport residents in December 2021 approved a six-month ban on commercial rocket launches after bluShift proposed its plans that November.

The Times Record reported that local fishermen took issue, citing concerns that launches would interfere with fishing and that gear could be damaged and tangled with parachutes used to slow a rocket’s descent.

The town has since created an aerospace committee to develop rules for commercial rockets. A survey was distributed last week to gather community input on bluShift’s proposal.

Public meetings will be held up until May 31, when the town is scheduled to vote on finalized rules for aerospace launches. According to Town Clerk Tonia Merchant, the process could go longer depending on the complexity of the rules.

Jonesport Select Board member Harry Fish said the majority of residents are still against the proposed facility. Their concerns center on the impact on the fishing industry and environment, he said.


“I just think that people are not going to be happy with the ordinance unless it is restrictive enough that the activity won’t take place,” Fish said.

BluShift has been searching for an adequate launch site in Maine since making headlines in January 2021 for becoming the first company in Maine to launch a commercial rocket and the first in the world to launch a commercial rocket using bio-derived fuel.

The company is still pursuing the Jonesport location despite pushback, according to CEO Sascha Deri. The launch site is proposed for Water Island, which lies five miles off the mainland. A mission control center would be closer to town.

“What we’re doing right now within the town is just trying to dispel myths and misunderstanding of what we’re looking to do and how we are very flexible in working with the fishing community and ensure that any environmental impact is minimal to this beautiful area of Maine,” Deri said.

Deri said the company firmly believes the launch process is non-toxic to the environment, and he considers the chances of a parachute landing on fishing gear to be highly unlikely.

The Jonesport location offers several advantages, Deri said, primarily the south-facing trajectory that allows a rocket to reach polar orbit without flying over any property.

Deri said bluShift is looking at other locations in Maine, and that the company is in conversation with Kennedy Space Center in Florida to possibly host the beta launch of its next rocket, dubbed Starless Rogue.

Starless Rogue engine tests will begin in the next few weeks at Brunswick Landing. The beta version of the rocket is scheduled to go to space by the end of 2022.

BluShift Aerospace has described its business model as the “Uber of Space,” where it will look to target a specific customer who wishes to send a payload into a particular orbit.

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