BluShift Aerospace Founder and CEO Sascha Deri (left) and Northern Lights Space Exploration LP managing partner Charlton Shackleton at bluShift Aerospace headquarters in Brunswick, Maine Photo by Linsday Becker, courtesy of bluShift Aerospace

Two Brunswick aerospace companies announced Wednesday they have agreed on a contract that will send five Maine-made rockets carrying human and pet ashes into suborbital space to be distributed among the northern lights.

Memorial services, priced at $750, will be the first of multiple offerings Northern Lights Space Exploration LP will provide its customers through its partnership with rocket company bluShift Aerospace, according to a press release. Through Driftspace, a software produced by the Portland-based Yarn Corporation, customers will be able to attend the memorial services in virtual reality.

The contract is worth up to a total of $7 million for five suborbital flights, each of which will carry up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cremated human or animal remains.

Northern Lights Space Exploration is a subsidiary of Shackleton Research Trust, an agency that works to improve equity in science in traditionally marginalized areas like the Caribbean, Africa and Southeast Asia, according to managing partner Charlton Shackleton. He said bluShift’s eco-friendly rockets, which can be easily shipped anywhere in the world, are a perfect fit for developing nations and islands without existing space infrastructure.

“Before, (the space industry) didn’t care about the environment – we needed to get that thing up there, so that was the focus,” Shackleton said. “We care about both. That’s what really sold me on a bluShift product versus other launch companies that are trying to do the same thing.”

BluShift, which will power its 50- and 78-foot-tall rockets with a bio-derived, nontoxic solid fuel, has long planned to partner with companies that rely on satellites in a polar orbit, meaning a path that runs north to south over the poles, according to founder and CEO Sascha Deri. He told the Forecaster in March that the market to launch those satellites, which are often used in broadband communications and global imaging, is worth $20 billion.


Though he didn’t initially expect his company would be involved in space memorial services, Deri said Northern Lights Space Exploration’s model provided an exciting opportunity for both bluShift and Maine’s budding aerospace industry.

“It’s really neat to see that there’s something completely unexpected – a whole different way to commercialize space launch that isn’t just around R&D and technology development – that we can take advantage of as a space launch company,” Deri said. “I think it really shows how much how much nascent entrepreneurialism and curiosity in general, interest in space, we have in Maine.”

Terry Shehata, director of the Maine Space Grant Consortium, agreed the partnership between the two Brunswick companies represents a step forward for Maine’s space industry, which he said has garnered attention nationwide since the establishment of the Maine Space Corp this spring.

“You’re seeing the initial steps of what’s happening to create this new space economy in Maine,” Shehata said. “What you’ve witnessed today with this arrangement agreement between bluShift and Northern Lights is just a sign that a lot more things are coming down the pike.”

He said the upcoming formation of the Maine Space Complex, as well as the success of startups like bluShift, could contribute to a domino effect that will bring the state a wide array of jobs in fields like engineering, electrical work and data analytics, as well as opportunities for entrepreneurs with novel ideas like Shackleton.

While bluShift announced in June plans to build its launch site in Steuben, Northern Lights is still finalizing its own launch location, Shackleton said. The companies hope to launch their first cargo by the end of 2023.

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