Startup launches first-ever commercial rocket using biofuel

Beyond being a thrill to watch, rocket launches are essential for blasting spacecraft and satellites into orbit. That said, there is a big environmental cost that comes with rocket launches as it requires an incredible amount of fuel to start the ascent.

Space X’s Falcon Heavy, for instance, used 906,099 lbs (411,000 kg) of fuel to lift off. In order to make rocket launches more environmentally responsible, rocket startup BluShift Aerospace has created and successfully launched a rocket using a “bio-derived” solid fuel, marking the first time this has ever happened.

The launch, which took place in Maine, was a modest one, with the 20-foot rocket reaching just 4,000 feet before parachuting back down to Earth. However, the launch does prove the viability of BluShift’s MAREVL (Modular Adaptable Rocket Engine for Vehicle Launch) and the associated biofuel.

For BluShift, the main goal here is to make rocket launches more accessible to a greater number of companies and researchers by reducing the costs of launches through cheaper, eco-friendly fuel. Made from nitrous oxide bubbled with oxygen as an oxidizer, Blushift says the fuel is non-toxic, carbon-neutral, and “can be cheaply sourced from farms across America.” 

Whether the company will be able to convince potential clients that it’s worth opting for BluShift rather than more established rivals remains to be seen, but the development of more eco-friendly rocket fuel is certainly an interesting prospect as the industry of rocket startups continues to grow.

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