The payload container carrying experiments and the cremated ashes of some 200 dearly departed people — a cargo that includes remains of the beloved "Scotty" of "Star Trek" fame — has been recovered in the New Mexico mountains.
"It has been found. It is in good shape," Eric Knight, co-founder of the rocket firm, UP Aerospace, that launched the cargo, told SPACE.com Friday.
That payload section of UP Aerospace's second SpaceLoft XL rocket landed in rough mountainous terrain in the White Sands Missile Range after blasting off April 28th from New Mexico's Spaceport America.
The suborbital rocket shot the payload section up into space, with the booster stage and the top section individually parachuting back down to terra firma.
Tucked aboard the rocket were a series of experiments and the ashes of 200 people, including actor James Doohan — who portrayed the plucky Starship Enterprise engineer Scotty on television's "Star Trek" — as well as the remains of Gordon Cooper, one of NASA's seven original Mercury astronauts.
Repeated searches of a projected landing zone had come up empty handed since the rocket was launched. Bad weather as well as rough-and-tumble terrain made searches by helicopter tough duty.
In an earlier search, the rocket booster itself was found and recovered.
On the scene as part of the recovery team, Jerry Larson, president of UP Aerospace, reportedly found the missing in the mountain payload in good shape.
More details regarding the finding of the rocket section wee expected later Friday, Knight said.
Array of payloads
The April flight of the SpaceLoft XL — labeled SL-2 — took into space an array of educational investigations, as well as commercial and entrepreneurial payloads.
For instance, 800 students from teams around the country and the world, including Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Netherlands, developed and designed 44 scientific experiments for the SL-2 mission.
The SpaceLoft XL mission also marked the first Legacy Flight — a new service provided by Celestis Incorporated of Houston, Texas. That firm launches the cremated remains of individuals into space.
UP Aerospace is gearing up for future launches from Spaceport America, a site dubbed as the world's first "purpose-built" — or built from scratch — commercial spaceport being erected 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of Truth or Consequences and 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Las Cruces, N.M.
This was the second rocket liftoff for UP Aerospace from Spaceport America.
Last September, the firm's SpaceLoft XL ran into trouble during ascent, then fell to Earth after 90 seconds of flight. Corrective actions were taken by UP Aerospace leading to the successful takeoff and full mission last month.
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