World’s first bio-derived fuel powered rocket launched

Energy & Efficiency, Space

A company that hopes to become the “Uber for space” has launched the world’s first rocket powered by bio-derived fuel.

Strapped to a trailer and pulled by a pick-up truck along a runway in Maine once used by B-52 bombers in the Cold War, bluShift Aerospace’s 20ft unmanned prototype hit an altitude of around 4,000ft in a run designed to test the rocket’s propulsion and control systems.

Sascha Deri, founder of bluShift Aerospace, told the BBC that the rocket’s biofuel took six years to create and is sourced from farms. However, he would not expand on exactly how the fuel was derived. 

“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, ” he said.

“It actually costs less per kilogram than traditional rocket fuel and it’s completely non-toxic.”

Most rockets use RP 1 (rocket propellant) fuel, a highly refined form of kerosene, for launches. He told the BBC companies such as SpaceX were like “freight trains to space” but there was an opening for light rockets that could carry small payloads.

“There’s no service allowing one or two payloads to go to space. There’s no Uber to space. We want to be the Uber service to space.”

The small satellite market is expected to hit $69bn by 2030 as thousands of micro-satellites are fired into orbit for satellite communications, Earth observation and research. In the UK, launch companies such as Edinburgh’s Skyrora are hoping to build small satellite rocket capacity that could lead to orbital launches from Britain. 

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been working on the development of methane-fuelled rocket engines and NASA has also investigated the concept. Since the gas could be harvested readily from the atmosphere or underground on Mars, methane fuelled-rockets could make return flights from the Red Planet a future possibility, claims The Telegraph

Chris Price
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