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Jonesport residents put temporary hold on rockets as Brunswick company pursues nearby launch

bluShift Aerospace's rocket descends toward Loring Air Force Base in Limestone in winter 2021.
bluShift Aerospace
bluShift Aerospace's rocket descends toward Loring Air Force Base in Limestone in winter 2021.

Jonesport residents on Wednesday night voted to put a six-month hold on a proposal that could make the town a mini-Cape Canaveral.

The 60-to-4 vote at a special town meeting gives residents time to create an ordinance for aerospace facilities, after an upstart Brunswick company called bluShift Aerospace proposed a small-bore rocket-launch site on an island off the mainland.

bluShift has been pioneering a mini-satellite — or "cubesat" — technology that uses non-toxic biofuels, with successful experimental launches from Limestone.

Jonesport Select Board member Harry Fish says townspeople are interested in the economic opportunity, but there is also concern that local lobstermen might lose time at sea during launches, or have to contend with pollution from rocket fuel.

"I'm of the opinion right now, let's at least look at this, see if it's possible to work out something that's suitable for everybody. Keep in mind, if there's no ordinance — as I always refer to it, 'if there's no ordinance, it's the wild west: anyone can do whatever they  want.'"

bluShift CEO Sascha Deri says that the company could confine launch-times to hours when lobstermen are mostly off-the-water, and summertime Sundays when state law already bars lobster fishing.

"We want to work around folks that are making a living off of the waters. We don't want to impact their ability to generate an income or revenue from working the waters," he says.

Deri says he supports the moratorium. But he's also hopeful that bluShift and the town can come to terms before six months are past. bluShift is holding an informational meeting at the Jonesport-Beals High School at 6 pm Thursday.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.