Downeast rocket launch site promises industry boom, worrying environmentalists

By Donovan Lynch,
Published by News Center Maine, 25 September 2023

While many in Steuben invite BluShift Aerospace’s plans for a rocket hub, others say it will harm fisheries and pollute the Gulf of Maine.

STEUBEN, Maine — Blushift Aerospace’s effort to build a rocket launching point in Downeast Maine is stoking a fresh debate about conservation and technological progress in the state.

Blushift CEO Sascha Deri is behind a proposal to build a rocket port near the town of Steuben that would send small satellites and research equipment into orbit. The location was chosen for its position on the Gulf of Maine, allowing rockets to launch over hundreds of miles of water to leave the atmosphere in a north-to-south path.

If successful, Deri sees a big impact for Maine. 

“It would develop the capabilities for Mainers as a whole to be a real player in the space industry,” Deri said Monday.

The company estimates that a rocket port in Steuben could create between 150 and 200 new jobs — most of them not requiring a college degree. This promise has excited many locals in this town that has long relied on the same source of income — the sea.

“This would bring in immense new jobs and resources,” John Murphy, who lives in Steuben, said Monday.

Despite the hope of economic growth, Blushift’s plans have drawn harsh criticism from activists across the state. Lisa Savage, a one-time candidate for the U.S. Senate, worries a rocket hub would harm existing industry. 

“Would that 150 jobs include all the lobsterman put out of work, all the fishermen put out of work?” Savage asked.

In addition, Savage says there is serious environmental concern with Blushift’s project. Sascha Deri has lauded the organic fuels used by his rockets, and points to their lack of toxicity usually associated with aerospace equipment. 

Still, some locals like kelp farmer Larch Hanson, are unconvinced that the project in Steuben will be any different environmentally from other efforts nationwide. 

“Every place that has become a rocket launch, like Brownsville, Texas, Brevard County, Florida, Space X, Nasa, the environment has been severely degraded,” Hanson said.

Blushift still has to receive FAA certification and other necessary permits before opening a rocket launch site near Steuben. 

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