THEY had gathered before dawn for the spectacle and in the end they got the promised "fiery streak across the sky".

And all were agreed - Trekkies, anxious relatives and the gathered ranks of the media - that last night Scotty the Scottish engineer from Star Trek got the send-off he deserved.

To cheers and wild applause you would not normally expect at a service for the dead, Spaceloft XL - with the ashes of James Doohan, the Irish Canadian actor who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the cult space series, and the remains of 199 fellow "astronauts" took off on a perfect New Mexico morning.

The 20ft-long, 10 inches wide spacecraft speared upwards to a height of 70 miles where the nose-cone, containing the remains in individiual capsules, detached after a brief spell in orbit.

Doohan's widow, Wende, said she was very pleased that the launch had finally gone so smoothly. "Jimmy would have loved to have gone into space in real life. When the ashes of Gene Roddenberry [the creator of Star Trek] were sent up a few years ago, Jimmy said that was his dream."

The company behind the venture, Celestis, which came through with its pledge of a "fiery streak" across the sky declared the much-delayed flight from a private launch pad near the town of Hatch a great success. Media-wise it couldn't have been better.

Whilst there may have been 199 others from 10 different nations on board the spacecraft, the only other participant for whom their may have been a flicker of public recognition was former Mercury astronaut, L Gordon Cooper. That didn't stop dozens of camera crews from around the world gathering in the early-morning desert chill to capture Scotty's last flight.

When the moment arrived a hush descended over the launch site as the countdown began. Applause soon broke out from Star Trek fans, many wearing costumes from the show, as Spaceloft XL streaked upwards, leaving a white vapour trail behind, until it was lost from sight.

Doohan, who died two years ago aged 85 specified in his will that his family should fund the trip. Originally, the firm planned to send Doohan's remains into space two years ago, but the flight was delayed by tests and then a misfire during a rehearsal.

The character he played in Star Trek was one of the most-popular characters of the enduring American sci-fi programme. He said he adopted a Scottish accent for his Star Trek role because it was commanding.

Scotty became best known for the catchphrase, "Beam me up, Scotty," even though it was never actually uttered during the programme by James T Kirk, the captain of the Starship Enterprise.

A spokeswoman for Celestis said it was their sixth such launch and promised more spectacular trips in the future.

She said: "It allows a symbolic placement of cremated remains into the Earth's orbit. Your loved ones will venture into space as part of a real space mission."