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A unique Maine partnership may let you send your loved ones' remains into space

bluShift Aerospace
bluShift Aerospace's rocket descends toward Loring Air Force Base in Limestone in winter 2021.

Brunswick-based bluShift Aerospace has signed a $7 million deal with Northern Lights Space Exploration LP, also of Brunswick, for five suborbital launches with a unique mission: sending the ashes of cremated people into space.

Northern Lights' managing partner Charlton Shackleton is an explorer, entrepreneur and descendant of the famous Antarctica explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.

He wants to use bluShift's Starless Rogue beta rockets to conduct memorial services in space, where small payloads of up to 10 kilograms of cremated ashes may be launched and dispersed. Shackleton says it's a unique and personal way to honor a loved one.

"We want to be able to conduct that memorial service, share it with loved ones down here. Whether it be people or pets, let them see them gently released into the northern lights. It's a very intimate experience," Shackleton says.

Northern Lights — which plans to offer other services beyond memorial services — committed up to $1.4 million for the use of each Starless Rogue suborbital launch vehicle.

blueShift has begun a series of rapid engine tests to optimize its carbon-neutral, biofuel powered rocket engine. Northern Lights said bluShift's planet-friendly technology was a deciding factor in its selection process.