Elysium Space extending memorial frontiers aboard SpaceX Falcon 9
SpaceX has launched communications and reconnaissance satellites into Earth orbit and cargo to the International Space Station, but it’ll be lofting something new on an upcoming flight. Elysium Space, a company specializing in “memorial spaceflights”, will be placing a satellite with the cremated remains of at least 100 people aboard a Falcon 9 rocket scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
According to a news release, a small satellite called Elysium Star II will fly atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Spaceflight Industries‘ SSO-A dedicated ride-share mission. The spacecraft will be placed into a Sun-synchronous orbit. While it is unclear exactly when the mission will launch, the company said reservations for the flight are still open.
“We are honored to assist families in achieving their dreams, riding on one of the greatest rockets in the world,” said Thomas Civeit, founder and CEO of Elysium Space. “This historical launch provides the perfect conditions to make this memorial spaceflight an exceptionally meaningful experience for all participants.”
Celestial funerals as a business
Elysium Space is not the first organization to send human remains into space. That honor goes to NASA, which carried some of the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry into space on Oct. 22, 1992, aboard the Space Shuttle during mission STS-52. Moreover, Celestis, the company’s competitor, has been performing memorial launches since 1997.
However, Elysium Space will be the first to build a satellite dedicated specifically for funeral activity. Elysium Star II appears to be a 4-inch (10-centimeter) CubeSat that is expected to orbit for two years before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere as a shooting star.
Individual remains encased in cubed-shaped anodized aluminum canisters cost $2,490 to launch, with members of the U.S. armed services receiving a slight discount. The individual canisters are large enough to permit only three characters to be etched onto their side.
In addition to this orbital flight, Elysium Space is offering a lunar memorial where customers could have their (or a loved one’s) remains sent to the Moon aboard Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander for $9,950. For comparison, Celestis’ space funeral services range from suborbital memorial flights for $1,295 to deep-space missions starting at $12,500.
People interested in following Elysium Star II once it launches can download a mobile (iOS or Android) app that will track the spacecraft while it’s in orbit.
Updated: The original posting stated that Elysium would use Astrobotics’ Griffin lander, as stated on their site. However, Astrobotics told Spaceflight Insider that Elysium would use their Peregrine lander.
Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.