Former SpaceX Starlink exec joins German lasercomm startup

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WASHINGTON — Mynaric, a German laser communications startup focused on satellite and airborne platforms, has hired a SpaceX employee previously involved in the Starlink megaconstellation.

Gilching, Germany-based Mynaric announced March 13 former SpaceX Vice President Bulent Altan as its new co-chief executive, splitting the position with Wolfram Peschko, Mynaric’s CEO since 2011.

Altan was an early Elon Musk-hire at SpaceX. He joined the launch company in 2004, two years after it was founded. He left SpaceX in 2014 for Munich, Germany, where he formed a business accelerator called TechFounders and briefly worked at Airbus Defence and Space on digital transformation and innovation before rejoining SpaceX in 2016 to work on Starlink, a planned constellation of up to 12,000 broadband satellites.

Speaking to reporters March 13, Altan said his work on Starlink should be “highly applicable” to Mynaric.

“My job was to ensure that we were technically and business-wise on the right track,” he said of Starlink, for which SpaceX launched two prototype satellites in February 2018.

Altan, who was vice president of satellite mission assurance, said he had responsibilities like those of a chief engineer on Starlink, and worked on the constellation “almost to the handover of the prototypes” in 2017, before leaving to start the venture capital firm Global Space Ventures, which is currently raising funds.

Though Altan plans to split his time equally between Mynaric and Global Space Ventures, he said he will devote a “typical SpaceX full day” to his work.

Altan said his move to Mynaric doesn’t indicate any business relationship between SpaceX and Mynaric, but that he hopes to facilitate one.

“They are a potential customer like any other, and I definitely will call up my colleagues there and make a pitch,” he said.

Mynaric has confirmed it sold hardware to Facebook, which has shown interest in drone- and satellite-based communications, but declined to go into specifics. The company said it has several customers doing airborne and spaceborne technology evaluations, but none it can publicly name.

Mynaric announced additional leadership changes with Altan’s onboarding.

Co-founders Markus Knapek and Joachim Horwath left their positions on the company’s management board but remain with the company. Knapek is forming a new business division and Horwath is running a team focused on advanced technologies to “expand and protect” Mynaric’s market position, the company said in a new release.

Mynaric said it also added Hubertus von Janecek, a former vice president of sensor and technology company Bosch Sensortec, to its management board where he will lead sales and production of airborne products.