Brian’s profile featured in New Mexico Inno [Innovation] – Albuquerque Business First
M. Brian Barnett
CEO and Founder, Solstar Space Co.
Number of years in current role: 5
Number of years with your company: 5
What companies have you previously worked at? Satwest; KPMG Peat Marwick; NASA
Education: Undergraduate, University of Oklahoma; master’s in business and project management, University of Alabama in Huntsville; certificate in space studies, International Space University – Strasbourg, France
Brief description of what your job entails: My focus areas at Solstar include sales and business development, fundraising, executive technical manager for the WiFi access point we are engineering for the HALO module of NASA’s Lunar Gateway Space Station, product development and commercialization, presenting and speaking at international space and satellite conferences, marketing and public relations and documenting Solstar’s progress in film.
Biggest career accomplishment: Demonstrating the first commercial WiFi hotspot in space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft. We provided a satellite internet connection to the spacecraft from the launchpad into space and all the way to landing. We posted the first commercial Tweet from space that day and our Schmitt Space Communicator is now at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. It is because of this success that led to Solstar being selected to provide the WiFi equipment on NASA’s Lunar Gateway Space Station, which will orbit the moon in a few years.
Favorite part about your job: My favorite part of my work is meeting all the cool people in the space and satellite industries. I see the work we are doing at Solstar as helping planet Earth by making humans a multi-planetary species through space exploration. I also enjoy giving presentations and interviews and watching people smile in amazement when I tell them my company provides WiFi to astronauts.
What are your overall thoughts on the aerospace industry in New Mexico? New Mexico has a proud and important place in space history. Wernher von Braun’s German rocket team developed rockets at White Sands Missile Range. I think it is great that the other important rocket scientist, Robert Goddard, chose to build and launch his rockets out of Roswell, and Roswell continues to be the location of choice for things like extremely high-altitude balloon flights and skydiving tests.
New Mexico is a great place to train astronauts on how to work on the Moon and Mars. We have craters, lava tubes and volcanos which are very common on the Moon and on Mars. Spaceport America is a world-class resource for commercial space flights and activities. I am proud to have spent about two years — full time — on early business planning at the Spaceport, and I led the team that studied 11 sites around the state as possible locations for the Spaceport. The location that scored the highest is the exact location where Spaceport America is located today.
My companies have flown two space missions out of the spaceport. I am pleased to see Virgin Galactic and all the other companies that have located at the Spaceport in recent years. And I am glad to see new buildings like a payload operations center being built. I know a lot of research organizations have hired Los Alamos National Lab to support really complex space projects like Mars missions and the New Horizons mission to Pluto. Today, we have parts of the Space Force that are located in Albuquerque, which I think is very exciting. There are quite a few space-related startups in New Mexico now and the NewSpace New Mexico organization helps to bring all those companies together and to publicize our efforts.
Board/association memberships: Mobile Satellite Users Assoc.; FAA’s Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation