NASA-funded space programming kicks off in 15 Maine schools

[Bangor Daily News] NASA-funded space programming kicks off in 15 Maine schools

Implementation of the Maine K-12 Space programming has begun across Maine.

Judi Sandrock, co-founder of MaxIQ Space, a Virginia-based Space STEM educator that specializes in student space programs, announced today that she and a team of space/STEM professionals traveled to fifteen schools across Maine to begin implementation of a new Maine K-12 Space STEM program funded by NASA. The program was announced last November and made available to Maine schools through an online application.

Fifteen K-12 Maine schools and Educate Maine facilitators were selected for the programming, which is designed to accelerate STEM skills and career opportunities in Maine’s growing space sector. A total of $157,000 is funding the program, including a $90,000 grant from 2021 Congressionally Directed Funding made possible by the office of U.S. Senator Susan Collins and $67,000 from MaxIQ Space.

“This pilot program is specifically designed to seed and foster the potential of Maine students and further open their future career opportunities in Maine’s burgeoning New Space sector,” said Judi Sandrock, co-founder of MaxIQ Space. Sandrock is joined by a team of STEM / Aerospace professionals, including Sascha Deri of bluShift Aerospace, Emily Dwinnell of the Maine Spaceport Initiative, Angela Oechslie of Educate Maine, and Bjarke Gotfredsen of MAXIQ Space, chief designer and technical lead of the hardware system.

The team kicked off its training sessions at Bangor High School and continued a series of working sessions that concluded at the USM Gorham Campus. The sessions were open to teachers and students.

Initial trainings took place at the following schools:

Bangor High SchoolVeazie Community SchoolCaribou Community School RSU 39Pine Street Elementary SchoolEaston Elementary SchoolHodgdon Middle/High SchoolEllsworth Middle SchoolEllsworth High SchoolMachias Memorial HSWashington AcademyCobscook InstituteHall-Dale High SchoolSacopee Valley High SchoolEdward Little High SchoolFoster Career & Tech Ed. Center

Each school was provided a set of modular IoT (web) enabled electronics kits, which are connected to a data dashboard and support topics such as data science, coding, big data, robotics, and Internet of Things (IoT), a network of physical objects — “things” — that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet. MaxIQ Space will provide all schools with training and easy-to-use teacher support materials.

In addition to the kits, schools received:

Curriculum relating to STEM, Space, and SustainabilityHigh-altitude balloon and model rocket missionsSupport in setting up and operating a satellite ground station to collect research satellite dataParticipation rocket engine tests at bluShift’s headquarters in Brunswick, including collecting data during live test fires to understand the carbon-neutrality of bluShift’s bio-derived fuelbluShift suborbital space launches of the students’ final satellite payloads

MaxIQ Space has delivered as many as 80 student payloads to space aboard four separate launches (including the International Space Station), and Sandrock noted that her company has customized its international K-12 Space STEM program specifically for Maine students and teachers.

“Because of companies like bluShift Aerospace and the Maine Space Grant Consortium, Maine has an early-mover advantage in the space race for talent and skills,” said Sandrock. “We believe that Maine is well-positioned to train its young people to meet the urgent need for a space-savvy workforce.”

Later this year, bluShift Aerospace will invite schools to participate in test fires of the company’s full-scale MAREVL rocket engine, which is powered by a nontoxic, carbon-neutral biofuel. The tests are part of a series that is being conducted to optimize the performance, thrust, and efficiency of bluShift’s engine prior to integration into their suborbital rocket, Starless Rogue.

“We’re very excited about this new space science pilot program for Maine students. I can easily see this first-of-a-kind program being developed in our state as a model that is duplicated in all of the states and territories of our country,” Sascha Deri, CEO and founder of bluShift. “This program has real potential to spur and increase students’ curiosity and interest in science and engineering.”

During the engine tests students will have the ability to conduct live science experiments, such as determining whether identical sensors in various payloads can provide consistent results; measuring the change in environmental conditions during an engine ground test; and testing the mechanical integrity of payload structures in preparation for a suborbital launch.

In June 2021, MaxIQ Space announced it would send up to 60 academic experiments per launch with bluShift. In April 2022, MaxIQ Space provided its first round of payment, securing suborbital rocket launch services aboard bluShift’s first full-scale commercial flight, Starless Rogue Beta.

MaxIQ Space has been established to serve the broader space industry in delivering educational and skills development programs. The primary goal of the MaxIQ team is to inspire future space industry professionals through the practical and impactful delivery of Space STEM programs. All engagements support and promote a digital future, mapped to the identified requirements for the 4th Industrial Revolution. Practically, this requires the use of digital, modular electronics, ensuring that no formal facilities are required….build your satellite payload at home or school! The MaxIQ Space founders bring extensive experience in Space STEM education experience, from junior-high to PhD, multiple engineering industries, and space industry corporate governance. For more information visit their website

On January 31, 2021, bluShift Aerospace made history when it launched the first commercial rocket in the world powered by nontoxic, carbon-neutral biofuel from Limestone, Maine. Founded in 2014, bluShift has designed a bio-derived rocket fuel and a modular hybrid rocket engine, and is working toward a rocket that will launch small payloads suborbitally. The New Space startup is targeting the education market, providing a service to businesses and academic and civil researchers who are looking for an environmentally responsible ride to space and more time in zero G. Eventually, the company plans to develop a rocket that will lift 100-kilogram payloads to low-Earth orbit. This new launch system will dramatically reduce the environmental impact, cost, and wait times of current cubesat launch services. By launching rockets to polar orbit from Maine, bluShift plans to create over 50 aerospace jobs in the next five years and bring revenue from the rapidly growing cubesat launch market into the state. bluShift Aerospace is headquartered at Hangar 6, at Brunswick Landing. For more information visit their website at

The Maine Space Grant Consortium, an Affiliate-based, 501(c)(3) organization, is a member of the national network of 52 space grant consortia administered by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. All space grant consortia support research and education programs and activities that align with NASA’s strategic objectives and one or more of its five mission directorates. In addition to aligning with NASA’s research and education priorities, the MSGC ensures its investments also align with the technology sectors of the Maine Technology Institute and support the state’s economic development strategies. The MSGC supports research and education across all STEM disciplines, including liberal arts and social and behavioral sciences, at Maine’s colleges and universities, k-12 schools and technology-based businesses, and manages the Maine NASA EPSCoR Program.