SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) – At a small workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Solstar Space CEO M. Brian Barnett and VP Gary Ebersole hover over an empty microwave sized black carbon-fiber box.
On top of the box is an electronics assembly, an assortment of electrical components and wires that make up the prototype of the Solstar Space Communicator. They need to install the communicator in the box so it can be bolted inside a space capsule for a journey 70 miles above the earth.
“We want to provide commercial internet services to people and experiments that are flying into space,” said Barnett.
The former NASA scientist, now entrepreneur, has already successfully sent the first text messages to a spacecraft during a launch of an Up Aerospace rocket from New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
Now, he and Ebersole are ready to test their prototype space communicator designed to provide full WiFi and internet service wherever needed above the planet.
“There’s a lot of activity going on now with commercial rockets going into orbit, taking people, taking experiments,” said Barnett.
He and his Solstar colleagues want to provide much-needed off-world connectivity for that burgeoning industry. Space tourists would be able to livestream their personal adventures or just email from on board their spacecraft, somewhat like what is available on many commercial airliners today.
Scientists who are doing experiments in space often have large gaps in their ability to keep data flowing from their hardware and Solstar hopes to fill those gaps with its service.
Solstar used off the shelf components to create its communicator and will tap into some orbiting communications satellites to provide continuous connectivity in space.
“Using our special sauce if you will, our special software and technology,” said Ebersole.
NASA likes the Solstar idea so much, the agency is paying for two test flights on the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket and has also commissioned Solstar to devise a commercial internet system for the International Space Station.
The first Blue Origin spacecraft will blast-off soon from a site near Van Horn in West Texas, on a mission to test the capsule’s escape system. Solstar’s internet device will ride along.
“We’ll be testing that our WiFi connections and internet connection is going well for future astronauts and experimenters in space,” said Barnett.
Solstar plans to eventually provide 24/7 service from on the launch pad, throughout a space journey and back to earth.
The small New Mexico startup is seeking more investors to commercialize their space communicator.