A Falcon 9 rocket set to fly from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the coming months will carry special cargo — cremated human remains — as space burials return to the Central Coast.
San Francisco-based Elysium Space has announced that one small satellite, among many others with different missions, will carry cremains during a future Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket launch.
The company’s Star II Mission will involve a representative sample of cremains for 100 people from all backgrounds.
“Participants include U.S. military veterans, aerospace enthusiasts, and families looking to celebrate a loved one within the poetry of the starry sky,” Elysium founder Thomas Civeit said.
For $2,490, customers receive a kit that includes a micro-scoop to easily transfer a symbolic portion of the cremated remains to the ash capsule.
The capsule holds about a dozen micro-scoops or up to a gram, depending on the density of the cremains, Civeit said.
Each capsule is 0.4 by 0.4 by 0.4 inches, with up to 200 capsules making up the CubeSat.
The cremains on the CubeSat will be placed in a sun-synchronous orbit, “ensuring it will pass over every location in the world during its journey among the stars, which will last about 2 years before re-entering the atmosphere as a shooting star,” the company said in a statement.
Elysium’s free mobile app will display the memorial spacecraft’s place in space.
The company touts its memorial spacecraft as the first dedicated satellite ever launched for space burials.
But Elysium is not the first to offer the service. Houston-based Celestis Inc. conducted several space burials, many involving rockets prepped at or launched from Vandenberg.
For those missions, several lipstick tube-sized samples of cremains were affixed to the rocket’s upper stage, orbiting Earth before re-entering the atmosphere.
Twenty years ago in its “founders flight” off the coast of Spain, aboard an air-launched rocket prepped at Vandenberg, Celestis carried cremains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and 1960s psychologist and LSD advocate Timothy Leary, among others.
In all, Celestis has completed 14 missions, with four more scheduled in the next 18 months.
“Four missions in the next 18 months is showing the vitality of the field, and also us as founders of the field if you will,” said Charles Chafer, Celestis founder.
And Celestis has another mission, also aboard a Falcon rocket, set to blast off from Florida early next year. Another Vandenberg mission also is planned in the next 18 months.
Both companies also offer lunar memorials for those who want an option beyond an orbit around Earth.
Elysium Star I mission occurred in 2015 on the maiden flight of the Air Force Super Strypi rocket, which failed after launch from Kauai, Hawaii.
Elysium’s second payload will fly among dozens of CubeSats for the rideshare mission dubbed SSO-A, once planned for late 2017 but likely to occur later. That mission managed by Spaceflight Industries also reportedly will carry Terra Bella SkySats.
Before that mission, Falcon rockets are queued up to carry other cargo into orbit. On Aug. 24, a Falcon rocket will lift an Earth-imaging spacecraft Formosat-5, for Taiwan’s National Space Organization.
In late September, the third set of Iridium commercial communication satellites reportedly will head to space. That liftoff is is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Sept. 30, Iridium officials said.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.