SAN FRANCISCO — Elysium Space, the San Francisco startup that sends cremated remains into orbit, announced plans May 16 to launch its Elysium Star 2 memorial spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rideshare mission next year from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. If the rocket reaches orbit, it will be the firm’s first successful spaceflight.
Elysium Space attempted to send a cubesat into orbit in 2015 on the maiden flight of the U.S. Air Force Super Strypi rocket. When that launch failed, Elysium invited customers who provided remains for that flight to join the next mission.
Elysium plans to send into orbit a single unit cubesat that can accommodate 300 small boxes of ashes. So far, approximately 100 customers have signed up for the flight, said Elysium Founder Thomas Civeit.
Unlike most Silicon Valley startups that are venture capital backed, Elysium funds its operations through revenue. Customers who sign up for memorial low-Earth-orbit flights on Elysium’s website pay $2,490 to reserve their spot.
Elysium customers receive a smartphone application they can share with family and friends to track the cubesat, which is expected to remain in a sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit for about two years. When it reenters the atmosphere at the end of its life, customers will be able to watch the “shooting star,” Civeit said.
Elysium is working with Seattle-based Spaceflight to find annual rides for its cubesats. For the upcoming flight, Elysium plans to send its memorial capsule on Spaceflight’s dedicated rideshare mission, called SSO-A, expected to launch in 2018, according to Spaceflight. As demand grows, Elysium will scale up to launching larger cubesats, Civeit said.
Elysium also offers customers the option of paying $9,950 to send remains to the Moon on flights arranged by Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh.
Civeit established Elysium in 2013 after working on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy software. “I’m very into the poetry of the sky,” Civeit said. “I wanted to create a connective experience, to remember someone by watching the night sky.”