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Stardust 1.0 Rocket: All you need to know about the first biofuel-powered commercial space launch

Arfa Javaid

On 31 January 2021, Stardust 1.0 was launched from Loring Commerce Centre in Maine, United States-- a former military base which was closed in 1994 due to economic distress. It became the first-ever commercial space launch powered entirely by biofuel, in addition to the first-ever commercial launch for the US State Maine.

CEO and Founder of bluShift Aerospace, Sascha Deri stated, "We want to prove that a bio-derived fuel can serve just as well, if not better in some cases, than traditional fuels to power rockets and payloads to space."

Key Highlights:

1- The rocket is manufactured by Maine-based aerospace company bluShift. 

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.'

2- The rocket is 20 feet long and has a mass of around 250 kg. It is relatively cheap to fly as it doesn't require a high-tech infrastructure of larger rockets, making space research accessible to more people. 

3- It can carry a maximum payload mass of 8kg and during its first launch carried three payloads. 

4- It reached a height of 1,219 metres in the space before parachuting back to Earth. 

5- The payload included a CubeSat prototype which was built by high school students. A metal alloy called 'Nitinol' developed by Kellogg’s Research Labs and a CubeSat from software company Rocket Insights.

Nitinol

It is a shape memory material and is used in medical devices such as stents. It is used to protect rocket payloads from vibrations.

6- These rockets will help to launch small satellites called CubeSats into space in a way cheaper than a traditional rocket and is less toxic for the environment. bluShift is expecting 40 new jobs in five years through launching CubeSats. 

What is Stardust 1.0?

It is a launch vehicle suited for budget payloads. Students, researchers and businesses will be able to conduct experiments and test products with greater control and frequency.

Stats of  Stardust 1.0

1- Height: 20 ft 

2- Mass: 550 lb

3- Number of Stages: 1

4- Fuselage: Composite

5- Recovery System: Drogue and parachutes

6- Maximum Thrust: 2,000 lbf

7- Maximum Acceleration: 2 g

8- Maximum Altitude: 5,200 ft.

9- Time in Pseudo-Microgravity: 4 sec

10- Payload Bay Diameter: 14 inch

11- Payload Bay Volume: 20 U (~20cm x 20cm x 50cm)

12- Maximum Payload Mass: 8 kg

13- Rocket Engine Type: Hybrid

14- Fuel: Proprietary, non-toxic, bio-derived solid fuel

15- TNT Rating of Fuel: 0

16- Oxidizer: Non-toxic, non-cryogenic pressurized liquid

What is Biofuel?

Biofuel is non-toxic to the environment as compared to traditionally used rocket fuels. As per several media reports, it can be sourced from farms around the world. 

Biofuels are carbon-neutral and are obtained from biomass which can be converted directly into liquid fuels and can be used as transportation fuels. 

Talking about the fuel, CEO of bluShift, Sascha Deri stated, "My two young daughters cold eat the fuel and no harm would come to them with the exception of constipation maybe."

As per the US Government’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the two most common kinds of biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel. 

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."

Other Rockets

Other rockets that are currently under development by the company include Stardust Gen. 2 (suborbital rocket), Starless Rouge and Red Dwarf (it will enter polar orbit). 

Polar Orbit

They offer more exposure to land than equatorial orbits. Maine is geographically suited for such launches, making it attractive to the growing space satellite communication industry. 

In October 2020, Blue Origin (Jeff Bezo's company) tested a rocket system called New Shephard. The rocket is meant to take tourists to offer flights to space over 100 km above earth and accommodation for payloads. 

The accommodation of mini payloads provides easier access to space to not only experienced researchers but also to students associated with educational institutions. The company is working to develop their own space programs for less than the price of new football uniforms. 

In June 2020, Virgin Galactic company signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA's Johnson Space Center to encourage commercial participation in orbital human spaceflight to International Space Station (ISS) and help in the development of a Low Earth Orbit economy. 

 

Source: bluShift Aerospace

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