A Falcon 9 rockett lifts off at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday from Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base.
A Falcon 9 rockett lifts off at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday from Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base. Credit: Screenshot via SpaceX

An assortment of spacecraft for various purposes including carrying cremated remains into orbit rode aboard a Falcon 9 rocket that blasted off Tuesday morning from Vandenberg Space Force Base. 

The rocket, built by Space Exploration Technologies, blasted off at 8:15 a.m. from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base after two days of delays.

Unusually clear skies Tuesday morning greeted spectators hoping to capture the rocket’s departure and ascent.

Falcon’s primary cargo involved another batch of Starlink satellites, 49 in total to join thousands of others in orbit. 

D-Orbit’s ION SCv-009 known as Eclectic Elena also hitched a ride as the firm works to streamline transportation to space for small satellite customers.  

Four payloads rode on the D-Orbit carrier for customers from Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States.

D-Orbit’s satellite carrier included a payload from StardustMe, a New Zealand-based firm offering space burials involving a token amount, about a gram, of cremated remains delivered into space to orbit for five years. 

“Eventually, in a breath-taking finale, the capsule will harmlessly re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, blazing as a shooting star,” StardustMe.com said on its website.

The satellite carrier deployed from the rocket 57 minutes after launch with the Starlink spacecraft separation happening 20 minutes later, or 77 minutes after liftoff. 

This isn’t the first time cremated remains have ridden a rocket launched from Vandenberg. 

Celestis Inc. conducted multiple missions for rockets that either originated from Vandenberg or launched from Vandenberg. 

The debut mission occurred as a secondary payload aboard a Pegasus rocket mission that originated from the Central Coast but launched from the Canary Islands in 1997. Other missions followed with the Taurus rocket at Vandenberg.

The manifest for Celestis includes missions from Vandenberg around April and July of this year.

The first mission for Celestis included cremains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and ‘60s guru Timothy Leary

Tuesday morning’s liftoff was the seventh Falcon 9 launch of 2023 with two of those occurring from Vandenberg and the rest from Florida. 

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.