Maine Lobster Fishermen Stall Plans for a New Rocket Launch Site

The Brunswick-based aerospace company claims its proprietary biofuel is safe for sea life.

Rocket launching into a clear blue sky
Photo: Yang Guang / EyeEm / Getty Images

When you think of Maine, the first thing that comes to mind may not be rockets, but a Brunswick company is trying to change that. BluShift Aerospace launched Maine's first-ever commercial rocket earlier this year and has become the first company in the world to launch a rocket powered by carbon-neutral biofuel. It has been trying to find a suitable location for its mission control facility and a launch site for future space-bound rockets, but the company is receiving some pushback from those who work in one of Maine's more well-known industries.

According to the Times Record, the town of Jonesport voted 60-4 in favor of putting a six-month moratorium on BluShift's proposed facility, and city officials have said that lobster fishermen are among those who are the most concerned by what effect the rocket launches could have on their schedules and equipment.

"Lobster fishing is the number one primary source of employment and earning income in this area," Jonesport selectman Harry Fish told the outlet. "They just feel that it's just not compatible with their fishing." Fish said that lobster fishermen have questioned whether the launches could damage their fishing gear, or whether the parachutes attached to the rockets could get tangled up with their own equipment.

BluShift CEO Sascha Deri says that the company is fine with the moratorium, and with the town exploring what regulations might be required in order for an aerospace company to operate there. Deri has also said that they could adjust their launch times so as not to interfere with "fishing activities," and BluShift has offered to cover the cost of any lines or traps that are damaged by the company's equipment.

In its proposal to Jonesport, it also pledged to equip the rockets and rocket-recovery boats with cameras that would record any incidents involving fishing lines. "Fishing lines will always take priority," the company wrote. "We'll always cut our [parachute] lines first."

"We want to be respectful of folks making a living off the sea. We want to be in harmony with the town. We want to be deliberate in understanding their concerns and addressing any questions," he told Mainebiz.

Earlier this year, Deri told the Times Record that the company's proprietary fuel was non-toxic and wouldn't harm the environment. "Our fuel — it is a solid — you could drop in the water, the fish could nibble at it, the lobsters could claw at it [and] there would be no ill effects," he said in April.

Deri says that Jonesport is still the company's first choice for its future activities, but it hasn't ruled out looking outside the state either. "We don't want to wait a year," he said. According to BluShift's website, the company believes its future facility could create "25-35 high paying jobs" for the community, in addition to up to eight contract positions. Its long-term goal is to be launching rockets 32 times a year ten years from now.

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