Solstar seeks strategic investor for WiFi in Space

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SAN FRANCISCO — Solstar Space, the New Mexico startup planning to offer WiFi to payloads and people in space, is looking for a strategic investor.

“We are looking for a space company that understands our market and wants to help us develop it,” Brian Barnett, Solstar founder and chief executive, told SpaceNews. “Our customers are their customers and their customers want what we do.”

Solstar connected spaceflight experiments with researchers on the ground through its Schmitt Space Communicator Xperimental, named for Apollo 17 astronaut and U.S. Senator Harrison Schmitt, during April and July test flights of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital capsule.

On April 29, Solstar tweeted, “Brought to you from above the Karman Line – this tweet from Solstar’s Space Communicator on board #NewShepard! Testing WiFi capabilities in space for space entrepreneurs everywhere. #WiFiInSpace”

Since then, Solstar has raised just over $204,000 through WeFunder.com, a crowdfunding investment website, and $300,000 from other investors. The firm is seeking to raise $800,000 in its current investment round.

Solstar plans to connect researchers with payloads on the International Space Station and suborbital tourists with networks on the ground. Data will travel from payloads equipped with Solstar antennas through commercial communications satellites, Barnett said.

“We have commercial relationships with every satellite network operator on the planet,” Barnett said. “We know how to choose a commercial satellite to connect with a given spacecraft from launch site to its final orbital inclination and altitude.”

Solstar’s customers will be commercial spacecraft developers and operators, people onboard spacecraft and payloads, Barnett said. Solstar will offer something like a hotspot on spacecraft for research payloads, he added.

“We provide access for a fee to interact with payloads through internet-connected devices,” Barnett said. Solstar plans to adopt a subscription-based revenue model with customers paying by the month or by the mission.

Solstar is developing a communicator for the International Space Station and another for the small satellite market.

“Our business model is to use existing billions of dollars spent on commercial infrastructure in space and on the ground,” Barnett said. “We use existing communications satellites and ground stations.”