Toucan Space, a French startup by Louis de Gouyon Matignon

Who has never dreamed to go to space? Who has never dreamed to have a piece of space, a rock from the Moon or an asteroid? But even though private trips to space have become possible, it remains too expensive for most people to experience it. So what to do for those who still dream of space? That is where Toucan Space finds its place in the space market.

In this new Space Legal Issues article, we will explain everything to you: how to choose your souvenir for space? How is this possible other than in our most ambitious dreams? And even what are the maximum measurements and weight of your object? At the end of this article, you will understand that space is now within reach of most people thanks to the company Toucan Space. This French startup created by Louis de Gouyon Matignon, named Toucan Space, offers anyone the possibility to obtain a unique gift coming straight from outer space. Of course, said object can be more or less the object of your choice. The idea is quite simple, you choose an object and Toucan Space sends it in space or the International Space Station (ISS) before sending it back to you.

The idea came from Louis de Gouyon Matignon, who founded the startup with his friend, Sébastien Coueille. Dr. Louis de Gouyon Matignon has a PhD in space law and haw worked between both universities Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris, France) and Georgetown University (Washington D.C.). Louis is now an innovative entrepreneur under thirty. So as to give life to that idea, an accord had to be found with NASA, they needed an enterprise to send those objects, an enterprise that was already able to travel to space. It took eight months but an accord was made between the French startup and NASA. NASA will take civilian objects to space but there are strict conditions. First of all, the weight is regulated: Toucan Space can send between two hundred and one thousand five hundred grams on suborbital spaceflight and between five hundred and five thousand grams aboard the International Space Station (ISS), so in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Nevertheless, certain objects cannot be sent to outer space: objects that show risks of explosion or electromagnetic interferences, objects that are pornographic or that constitutes hateful content. However, do not attempt to send an item with the NASA logo; indeed, no object with the NASA emblem can be sent to space. Objects that are sent to the International Space Station (ISS) will stay there for a month before it is sent back to Earth with a certificate of authenticity proving that it did indeed go to space.

The first flight is planned for November 2020 (SpaceX CRS-21). The flight is full and one kilogram of objects will be sent on the International Space Station (ISS) this time. Most of those objects belongs to Toucan Space, there are postcards and stickers, all kind of objects with the Toucan Space symbol on it. So as to give a taste of what their startup promises to do, these objects are up for presale on Toucan Space’s website so people can acquire them.

The customers will receive these objects in December 2020 with a certificate of authenticity, proving they were in fact in space. But more flights are to happen by 2021. One flight is scheduled in March, a sounding rocket will be launched with objects in it “at an average altitude of 160 kilometers and a speed of roughly 4.000 kilometers per hour” according to the official Toucan Space website. The sounding rockets will launch from Japan, Swedish Arctic or the United States of America. The other is scheduled in April and, this time, it will be a flight to the International Space Station (ISS). To acquire a place in those flights for their objects, people have up until the end of December 2020.

On a more practical point, it is important to understand how it all unfolds. First, it is important to understand why NASA, which is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, decided to work with Toucan Space. The Agency has recently decided to open the ISS to business in the hopes to bring private enterprises to the ISS. That is why the administration first started to work with SpaceX, using it to bring astronauts to the ISS and back from it. It also works with numbers of other private companies like Adidas or Estée Lauder but their works are more centered around communications and advertisement than on sciences. However it is important to underline that fact that astronauts’ priorities will always be scientific research as NASA has ruled that no astronaut nor will the Agency’s logo will appear in advertisements.

It is also necessary to remember that there is a third actor in Toucan Space’s adventure, SpaceX, which is a private New Space company created by Elon Musk in the hopes to revolutionise space technology. For it is SpaceX’s capsule, called Dragon, that will carry Toucan Space’s objects to the ISS. The private company and NASA have recently started to work together and Toucan Space seized that opportunity. NASA had, before that, no more opportunity to send with an American vehicle American astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX changed that with their spacecraft that can carry up to seven passengers to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and to the International Space Station (ISS). The Dragon capsule can also carry cargo and that is how Toucan Space managed to send objects to space or the ISS. Dragon has been launched twenty-three times and has visited the ISS twenty-two times since the project started. But what is really important is that the Dragon capsule comes back to Earth with its crew in a capsule but also with cargo, allowing a more permanent possibility to have exchanges with space and the ISS.

But Toucan Space offers to take objects to space. There are two choices that are offered to customers: the object can either go for a month in the ISS or it can simply travel in space. It is the Space X’s Falcon 9 that will take care of that. The Falcon 9 will launch with Toucan Space’s objects from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is a reusable rocket that can transport people and cargo, into Earth orbit but also beyond. The fact that this rocket is reusable is such a great fact and proves that travelling in space does not have to be a disaster for the environment, that there are ways to reuse some parts of space vehicles. Plus, it is interesting that the most expensive parts are the ones that can be reused which drives down the cost of space access. Toucan Space chose to offer a fun service to the public that allows it to reach for a piece of space while still protecting the environment by limiting the impact of their activity on it. So, we told you! With Toucan Space, you can space!

This article was written by Yacine BENARAB, Aurélien CORNE, Julie DODIN, Rémy JIN, Kévin MAYELE, Hawawou Modjissola SADISSOU and Flavien SALGADO (Paris-Saclay).