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Yet another ‘recipe’ for green chile; Las Cruces man developing a rocket with fuel made from New Mexico chile

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Lee M. Rush, left, with his assistant Matthew Herstein, a graduate of University of Arizona in aerospace engineering. (Submitted Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Lee M. Rush of Las Cruces has turned his love for New Mexico chile into a new vocation.

Three, two, one. An exhibition ignition of Rush’s chile rocket. (Lee Rush Photo)

A lineman specializing in high-energy, high-voltage power systems, Rush said he did some research for rubber-based rocket fuel for New Mexico State University.

Through his research, Rush noticed that rubber and green chile were similar in their chemical makeup.

At first he thought it was a silly idea to power a rocket with green chile.

“Then I did some initial tests and found out it wasn’t a silly idea afterall,” Rush said.

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The high-thrust, high-efficiency rocket has taken two years to formulate, he said. Rush brought his 7-foot long demo rocket to the chile Cheese Festival last weekend, but got rained out on Saturday.

He plans to come back this week for the Eastern New Mexico State Fair.

His assistant is Matthew Herstein, a graduate of the University of Arizona in aerospace engineering.

Rush said Roswell holds a special place in his heart and mind because his hero, Robert Goddard, did much of his experiments with rockets in the desert near Roswell.

“He’s my hero,” Rush said. “I’ve read everything he has written.”

He added that the people of Roswell have been very warm and receptive and he always looks forward to making a trip to the Alien City.

The rocket uses a hybrid fuel, Herstein said, which means it is a mixture of solid and liquid.

Rush’s company is called Thrugate Aerospace, which specializes in building rockets powered by alternative fuels.

“The chile rocket is being developed as part of an effort to fight global warming by building a rocket powered by renewable, locally produced, environmentally friendly rocket fuel capable of sending a rocket into space,” Rush said in a press release.

Rush said he met with officials at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences to discuss the prospect of the chile rocket making its first test flight at the port.

“The Spaceport is waiting for test data from the new engine before they will proceed with further discussions on the future of the chile rocket,” he said. Rush said he is currently looking for sponsors to help fund the building and testing of the new engine and conduct flight tests.

“I was very pleased with the meeting,” Rush said. “I came away with high hopes that the chile rocket will fly at Spaceport America in the near future.”

However, Rush said, “The completed demo flyer ended up being heavier than expected, which means the current engine will have to be upgraded to a higher thrust in order to get the rocket off the ground and into stable flight.”

Rush is using his rocket research to educate and inspire young people. As part of Thrugate Aerospace’s outreach program, Rush visits K-12 schools in the Las Cruces, El Paso, Deming and Roswell areas to make presentations about the chile rocket.

Rush said he is now preparing a crowd-funding campaign to raise the $5,000 needed for the chile rocket-engine upgrade. People can support this effort by having their names placed on the chile rocket demo flyer for $5 for children or $10 for adults.

So if you are interested in rockets, or just things that are very unusual, make sure you give Rush a visit when you attend the fair.

For more information, contact Rush at 575-650-9631, thrugateaerospace@gmail.com or visit www.thrugateaerospace.com.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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