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Vaya Space and bluShift Go Green to Stay Out of the Red

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 12, 2022
CEO Brent Willis (Credit: Vaya Space)

By David Bullock
Staff Writer

Two East Coast rocket companies seek to be more environmentally responsible with their rocket launches. Florida-based Vaya Space and Maine-based bluShift each have a unique green recipe for rocket fuel.

Vaya Space CEO, Brent David Willis, said the company’s patented vortex hybrid engine, Star-3D, is safer than previous versions of hybrid engines because it has the fewest moving parts and possesses better stability.

Star-3D’s combined 600 kilo newtons of thrust puts Vaya in the top tier of payload capacity and rocket safety for all types launch vehicle providers in the industry, Willis added.

Star-3D uses two million plastic bottles to create a 3D printed cylindrical thermo plastics solid fuel for every launch. Willis said the primary emission is water vapor with 17.5 metric tons of CO2, but no carbon soot.

The rocket engine is being tested in preparation for the maiden flight of Vaya Space’s Dauntless rocket in 2023. Dauntless will have a payload capacity of approximately 1,000 kg to low Earth orbit and 600 kg to sun synchronous orbit.

bluShift aerospace is using a biofuel for its hybrid engine. CEO Sascha Deri said the propellant is adapted from a biofuel created on his brother’s Maine farm. The engine also uses liquid nitrous oxide.

bluShift successfully launched its Stardust 1 booster on a suborbital flight in January 2021. The company plans to go orbital with a launch vehicle named Red Dwarf in 2024.

CEO Sascha_Deri (Credit: BluShift Aerospace)

bluShift conducted a study of customers in which it found they want more time up in space, a bigger payload space, and a cushier ride. The study also found that payload customers were frustrated with delays that came with not being the primary payload on a flight. bluShift and other small launch companies can provide dedicated launches.

bluShift and Vaya Space have different approaches to raising capital. Deri said his company used a crowd angel platform where it “raised more money faster than with typical angel investing.” Vaya Space’s Willis has kept his company’s fundraising under wraps.

bluShift is looking for a seed round. The company is trying to operate as efficiently as possible by seeking what Deri said is the “minimum viable product to get to the next step.”

The two companies have only been in the testing phase, with no commercial payloads launched on suborbital flight yet. Vaya is expecting revenues to come when it begins launches in 2023. bluShift has already signed up its first paying customer, MaxIQ, for an upcoming launch.

MaxIQ is a Virginia-based Space STEM educator and space launch broker and will be the primary client for bluShift’s first all commercial flight with the company’s Starless Rogue Beta suborbital rocket.

Both companies say they can do more with less. Willis said Vaya’s rockets will be more sustainable, more reliable and at least 20% less expensive than comparable boosters. He explained this by saying that while Rocket Lab’s Electron is low cost, it is more expensive per kilogram of payload. In contrast, Vaya will be able to launch heavier payloads for less.

Deri said that bluShift’s is able to keep its costs down because the company’s biofuel is less dense and has a lower cost per kilogram than traditional propellants.

Sustainability is also key to both businesses. “It’s a more responsible way of offering a business on this planet,” Deri said.

With many more small launch vehicle providers disrupting the industry by seeking for lower cost access to space, bluShift and Vaya Space will see if green is the way to go up.

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