Rocket Lab gets ready to launch The Electron, a rocket made for small payloads; several companies reveal plans to launch ashes into space for the ultimate send off. This rocket can carry payloads weighing Km (Image via Rocket Lab)
US/New Zealand based company Rocket Lab is ready to unveil its new rocket. The Electron, which is made to carry small payloads to space, is set to launch within a 10-day window that started May 21st at 5PM Eastern. This marks the first time a rocket will be launched from a private facility, which is housed on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The company decided to leave the launch window open to make sure they get the right weather and rocket conditions ensuring a safe launch.
The Electron itself is a 56-foot tall rocket made with 3D printed components and has the ability to carry around 330-pounds worth of cargo. The first stage of the rocket is powered by nine Rutherford engines, which burn kerosene and liquid oxygen for two and a half minutes. During the second stage, only one Rutherford engine is used, which then releases the rocket’s payload into orbit seven and a half minutes after liftoff. The rocket is ideal for carrying CubeSats filled with experiments and small satellites and launch them 300 – 500 km above the earth’s surface.
During these launches, you always have to prepare for failure and Rocket Lab is doing just that. Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, admits they may have to "scrub multiple attempts” if the conditions aren’t right. Since they’ve been working on the rocket for years, it’s important for them to get it right.
So far, there are no plans to launch the rocket in the public eye. The company doesn’t even want to webcast the launch. Rather they’ll share videos if the mission is successful. They haven’t even kicked things off, and they already have some potential clients, including Moon Express, a Google Lunar X Prize contender that wants to put a rover on the moon.
Though the Electron is ideal for carrying small payloads, like equipment or satellites, it may be perfect for something else: launching ashes. Yes, you can actually send the remains of your loved one in space thanks to a new company called Mesoloft. The company offers to send ashes 17 miles in the air in a part of the stratosphere known as near space. At this altitude, it’s possible the ashes will circumnavigate the globe before they return to Earth as rain or snow.
The idea was partly inspired by how volcanic ash and dust from the Sahara desert travels around the globe. To prepare the launch, the ashes are stored in a special container with a trap door. The container is then attached to a weather balloon and a frame holding two GoPro cameras. From there, the balloon carries the ashes into the stratosphere and are released via a GPS trigger. The attached cameras allow the family of the loved one to watch the journey through a special website. They are also given a video of the trip.
Though Mesoloft just started, they’ve already pulled in some customers. So far they launched the ashes of husband and wife John and Lois Lafferty housed in the same urn. The company posted a profile of their lives and the video of the trip on their blog, which is another service they offer. Services start at $2,800.
It seems more companies are getting in on this trend. San Francisco-based memorial spaceflight company Elysium Space offers a similar service. They send the ashes of the recently departed into space on one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets. Those who sign up get a custom ash capsule for their loved one’s remains. This is then sent back to the company where it’s placed on the spacecraft, which will be launched into the great beyond. If you want in on this, it’ll run you $2,490. Though it sounds odd, there are a lot of interested people. The company reports they have around 100 reservations booked.
With these services, the dearly departed will actually be looking down on you from the great beyond.
Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com