Many of our customers ask us, “What is this launch thing you do? How do you launch my star name into space? How does that all work?”
In principle, it’s rather simple. But in practice, it’s rather complex.
Each Name A Star Live customer gets a letter-size Star Certificate that displays the name of their star, an optional personal message, and the astronomical coordinates of their star. We store this information in our database. We then save that database onto a computer chip, which is then placed inside a rocket.
That’s the easy part. Arranging for, and conducting the launches is the difficult part!
Our parent company, Space Services, Inc., has contracted with various launch service providers to launch our payloads from locations around the world. Space Services missions have blasted off from the Canary Islands, Florida, New Mexico, California, New Zealand, and even a tiny, remote island in the Pacific Ocean.
We fly as a “secondary payload” on board rockets with commercial or scientific”primary payloads,” such as communications satellites. As a secondary payload, we have no control over when liftoff will occur. Indeed, launch delays are common in the aerospace industry, and there are a variety of reasons that cause such delays. For example, if there is a technical problem with the launch vehicle, or with the primary payload, we must wait until the problem is fixed before liftoff can occur.
Our payload — the computer chip that contains our database of star names, messages and astronomical coordinates — must be placed in the rocket at least weeks, and sometimes months, ahead of time. For our November 2012 launch, we must provide our payload to the launch services provider in October 2012 — a relatively short time period. Hence, we have a mid-October deadline for customers to name stars for inclusion on this mission. But for our New Frontier Flight that flew into Earth orbit May 22, 2012, we had to deliver our database back in October 2011 — approximately eight months prior to liftoff.
Being a part of a real space mission is very important to many of our customers: After the launch takes place, we provide each of our customers a complimentary Digital Launch Certificate, certifying their participation in the mission. Usually, customers can travel to the launch site to view the launch in person. We also are often able to webcast the liftoff live, via our website.
We do our best to keep our customers informed of the latest launch news. We update our online launch schedule as soon as events warrant. We encourage all of our customers to follow our launch news on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And, of course, we issue our monthly e-newsletters.
Despite the many problems we must overcome to launch your star name into space, we enjoy providing this service: Spaceflight is our passion, and so we very much appreciate your participation. After all, it is your purchase of Name A Star Live gift sets that help us pay for these missions into the final frontier!