UT startup Orbital Memorials launches your ashes into space

Freya Preimesberger

A startup launched by two UT students is giving its customers inner peace through outer space.

The company, called Orbital Memorials, will launch customers’ loved one’s ashes into low-earth orbit for less than $300. The first capsule is expected to launch at the end of next year. 

When a customer places an order with Orbital Memorials, they are sent a kit with  a small capsule to fill with one gram of their loved one’s cremated remains. Orbital Memorials then puts the capsule, along with multiple others, into a rocket and sends it into orbit, where it will circle the earth for around two months before naturally reentering the atmosphere and coming down as a “shooting star.” 

The service provides launch updates regarding the capsule as well as a keepsake replica, a Certificate of Mission Completion and a spaceflight patch. 

UT computer science senior Max Svetlik and mechanical engineering senior Ryan Menz said they were inspired to create their service after seeing a couple scatter ashes in downtown Austin. 

“We’re both aspiring astronauts so we wanted to bring space to everyone,” Svetlik said. “We wanted to do something honoring people, but in space, which sounds kooky, but we settled on sending remains into space.”

With the recent privatization of the space industry and by the likes of SpaceX, space travel costs have plummeted, said Svetlik. People are now able to buy seats on public flights for as little as $95,000, according to Business Insider .

Orbital Memorials contracts the launching to commercial services, which allows them to provide their service at reduced cost. 

“The launch provider we currently have is also interested in doing deep space missions, so your remains would be sent into deep space in suborbital lobs,” Menz said. “The rocket would go into space briefly, come back down, and you’d be able to get back the ashes that went into space.”

Currently, the capsule will burn as it comes down through the atmosphere, so the ashes will not be recoverable. The remains are not scattered while in orbit and they do not add to space debris.

The startup has partnered with Austin-area Solace Eco-Friendly Funeral Services and web-based funeral resource organizations. Other private companies, such as Elysium Space and Celestis, Inc., also offer space burial services. 

According to Svetlik, bringing new ideas to the funeral business can be challenging.

“The funeral home business is very conservative because what they’ve been doing for hundreds of years has been working, so there’s a lot of resistance to things like this,” said Svetlik. “It’s tough, but I think there are enough forward-thinking people in the industry who will be able to make an impact on a wide scale.”

Customers can place orders for the service at orbitalmemorials.com. 

“Our mission is twofold — one part is letting families remember their loved ones in an interesting way, and the other is to bring access to space to the hands of individuals and families because previously it was a luxury restricted to governments,” Menz said. “It’s pretty neat to see the shift in public access to space.”