Stardust 1.0’s rocket engine, dubbed the Modular Adaptable Rocket Engine for Vehicle Launch (MAREVL), uses a proprietary solid fuel which, in the words of the company, is non-toxic and carbon-neutral.Stardust 1.0 was launched from Loring Commerce Centre in Maine, US, a former military base, becoming the first commercial space launch powered by biofuel, which is non-toxic for the environment as opposed to traditionally used rocket fuels.The launch marks another historic first for Maine since Stardust 1.0 has become the first commercial rocket launch for the state located in northeastern US.
What is Stardust 1.0?
Stardust 1.0 is a launch vehicle suited for student and budget payloads. Students, researchers and businesses will be able to conduct experiments and test products with greater control and frequency.
- The rocket is 20 feet tall and has a mass of roughly 250 kg. The rocket can carry a maximum payload mass of 8 kg and during its first launch carried three payloads.
- The payloads included a cubesat prototype built by highschool students, a metal alloy designed to lessen vibrations, which is developed by Kellogg’s Research Labs and a cubesat from software company Rocket Insights.
- The rocket is manufactured by bluShift, an aerospace company based in Maine that is developing rockets that are powered by bio-derived fuels. Stardust 1.0 is being developed by the company since 2014 when the company was founded by its CEO Sascha Deri.
- bluShift-The startup was founded in the year 2014 and has received grants from the Maine Technology Institute and NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program as it embarks on a quest to become the ‘Uber for space.’
- These rockets will help to launch small satellites called cubesats into space in a way that is relatively cheaper than using traditional rocket fuel and is less toxic for the environment. Other rockets being developed by the company include Stardust Gen. 2, Starless Rouge and Red Dwarf, which is a low-Earth orbit vehicle and is designed to fly a maximum payload of 30 kg.
While Stardust flew just one mile into the sky before parachuting back to Earth, a second planned rocket will be suborbital and a later version called Red Dwarf will enter polar orbit.Polar orbits offer more exposure to land than equatorial orbits. And Maine is geographically suited to such launches which makes it attractive to the growing space satellite communication industry.
By some estimates, small satellite launch services could generate $69bn (£50bn) within the next decade. bluShift alone expects to create 40 new jobs in five years through launching tiny satellites known as cubesats.
What are Biofuels?
Biofuel is non-toxic to the environment as compared to traditionally used rocket fuels. Biofuels are obtained from biomass, which can be converted directly into liquid fuels that can be used as transportation fuels. The two most common kinds of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel and they both represent the first generation of biofuel technology. Ethanol, for instance, is renewable and made from different kinds of plant materials. Biodiesel on the other hand is produced by combining alcohol with new and used vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled cooking grease.
Uber to Space
Currently, there are freight trains to space like SpaceX and ULA and buses to space like medium-size rockets that are taking thousands of kilograms to space. However, there’s no space launch service that allows one or two payloads to go to space.As per CEO of bluShift, Sascha Deri, “There’s no Uber to space. We want to be the Uber service to space.”