Launching cremated ashes can be profitable at current launch
prices. Potentially a noticeable market even at a small share of the
funeral market--there are about 10 million cremations per year, just
in 12 or so industrialized nations (CSTS,
section 220.127.116.11.3, page 387).
So if space
burial captures 1% of these cremations (Celestis' goal, from "Celestis
on Track for First Memorial Launch," Spaceviews
Update, 15 May 1996), at the current price of $4800 (from the same
article), then revenues would be $480 million/year and mass to orbit
something like 1400 kg/year (assuming the Celestis capsule containing
7g of ashes, 7g for the capsule itself, an unknown but seemingly small
mass for the structures supporting the capsules, and a low earth
Celestis is the only company currently in this business. See their
History of space burial:
- 21 Dec 1999 Celestis flight: Taurus Launches
Satellites, Remains, SpaceViews, 22 Dec 1999.
- 10 Feb 1998 Celestis flight: See "Cremated remains are launched into orbit", Florida Today
Space Online, 11 Feb 1998
- 21 Apr 1997 Celestis flight. Here is a fairly detailed list of
sources (also see some of the others on this page) concerning
Celestis' first flight. Perhaps they are relevant mostly for tracking
the various schedule slips that this launch encountered. I don't
expect to discuss future Celestis flights in the same detail here.
- "Leary's ashes heading for ultimate trip", Florida Today Space
Online, 5 Jun 1996, says the flight was scheduled for fall 1996.
- "Timothy Leary's final trip put on hold", Florida Today Space
Online, 23 Jan 1997, says the first flight was scheduled for March,
- "Famous ashes to rocket into space", Florida Today Space
Online, 10 Feb 1997. Contains an anecdote concerning Timothy
Leary's reaction to the idea; perhaps gives some idea of what the
appeal might be for some customers.
- "Pegasus XL returns to flight, launches Spanish satellite",
Florida Today Space Online, 21 Apr 1997.
- 1985-1987: Celestis was working to establish space burial in
Florida but ran afoul of Florida funeral home industry regulations (CSTS, page 389 and "Ashes, ashes, they won't fall down for years", Florida Today
Space Online, 17 Mar 1997).
This page is part of Jim
Kingdon's space markets page.