- Tech Insights
Brian Barnett, CEO of Solstar Space Company, has been given the gift of vision. He sees communications as the linchpin for how the commercial space business will develop in the decades to come. Sometimes entrepreneurs in the space business need to envision a future that is beyond their lifetimes. Somebody must take on this visionary role, and Barnett has the experience and perseverance to do it. The more successful and financially prosperous the company has become; the more Barnett has expanded and driven innovation. Through his 21 years owning satellite communications companies, he has learned to hire the very best in the fields of commercial space, astronautics, and mobile satellite services. It has been easy to attract young people to the company because of its audacious vision and the vast possibilities providing advanced and modern space communications to achieve advancements in space.
Solstar Space is the leading commercial space-based connectivity company pioneering continuous communications services for low earth orbit (LEO/NGSO) satellites. The company provides bandwidth for smallsats, bi-directional data services for payloaders, and enable orbital and suborbital communications for human spaceflight missions. These solutions support a host of important space-to-space and space-to-ground communications and provide safety, security, and redundancy from launch to orbit to landing. Solstar’s fast, reliable services, space-tested routers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and satellite space communicators deliver on-orbit continuous connectivity for the crew, spacecraft, and Earth-based satellite operations teams and are supported by 24/7 customer care. The company uses commercial communication satellites and its space communicators onboard spacecraft to provide a commercial internet link from the spacecraft to the ground and vice versa. Solstar Space is Barnett’s third mobile satellite communications company. Over the years of operating these organizations, he provided communications services to people and things in remote places on Earth, on aircraft, and now, he is doing this on spacecraft.
"Solstar Space is the leading commercial space-based connectivity company pioneering continuous communications services for low earth orbit (LEO/NGSO) satellites"
“We are applying a tried-and-true business model to a new market niche—space-to-space and space-to-ground communications,” says M. Brian Barnett, Founder, and CEO, Solstar Space.
“ As an example, if you are an astronaut inside a space station in low earth orbit (LEO), you will use the Solstar Wi-Fi hotspot just like you use a hotspot in Starbucks or anywhere else,” says Barnett. “Solstar Space provides in-flight internet to astronauts, just like the internet you would use on a commercial airliner flight. Communications in space have traditionally been difficult and had many limitations. We make communication in space as easy as it is on Earth. We provide that seamless, continuous communications experience we have all come to take for granted here on the ground.”
NASA awarded Solstar a Space Act Agreement (SAA) in 2013 to demonstrate and mature this technology. Through the SAA, Solstar has successfully demonstrated commercial two-way payload data service technology on three suborbital flights through the Flight Opportunities Program (FOP).
“We flew our Schmitt Space Communicator SC-1x prototype payload twice on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket in 2018, where we demonstrated our Wi-Fi hot spot service inside the crew capsule. This feat was historic, and the Schmitt Space Communicator is at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum to be displayed in its new "Space Age Gallery" (tentative opening in 2025),” shares Barnett.
Solstar Space was recently awarded a U.S. Air Force, AFWERX contract. As a participant in the Phase 1 cohort, Solstar Space will conduct feasibility studies with the Department of Defense (DOD) to demonstrate how its onboard satellite Critical Data Relay will provide continuous connectivity and vital global communications for spacecraft in LEO orbit.
“Space-based connectivity is critical to providing immediate notification of spacecraft anomalies and to support worldwide recovery command capabilities,” says Barnett. “Today, LEO satellite communications are typically limited to a few minutes during each scheduled pass over downlink stations. Under this Phase 1 contract, the practicability of Solstar’s short burst data (SBD) services and the Critical Data Relay will be assessed,” continues Barnett. “LEO smallsat operators, including the DOD, have limited opportunities to communicate with spacecraft to ensure optimal operation. Troubleshooting of any issues is constrained to pass over windows where downlink stations are available leading to downtime, protracted recovery processes, and risk for catastrophic loss. It is Solstar’s mission to address these challenges and make continuous communications as available in space as it is on Earth,” concludes Barnett. IE
Founder & CEO of Solstar Space Co.
At Solstar® we develop proprietary technologies and payload & Space Communication products, providing commercial Internet/Communications services to astronauts and machines in space.