Successful Lunar Launch is Celebrated By a St. Pete Startup

Successful Lunar Launch is Celebrated By a St. Pete Startup

The bold ambition of a St. Petersburg-based startup to send data from space has advanced significantly as its first payload is currently traveling to the Moon.

At 1:05 a.m. on Thursday, February 15, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched from NASA’s Kenndy Space Center, launching Lonestar Data Holdings’ historic mission, which it named “Independence.” 48 minutes after detaching from the rocket, Intuitive Machines’ ground-breaking lunar lander “Odysseus” fired its main engine for the first time on Saturday.

Odysseus and the payload from the local startup should land somewhere on Thursday, February 22, according to Chris Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar. He informed the Catalyst, “That’s a fast burn to the moon.”

In contrast, it took Japan’s space agency six months to go to the lunar surface, arriving in January. Stott attributed the early success to the joint efforts of Lonestar, SpaceX, and Intuitive Machines.

“This is what American entrepreneurs are capable of,” Stott said. “Getting into space is literal rocket science. To see it in person and everyone come together to make it happen was just superb.”

Today should see Lonestar accomplish yet another important corporate milestone. It is not by coincidence that Stott hopes to send the Declaration of Independence from orbit before 10:30 p.m. on President’s Day.

The main objective is to build dependable and safe data centers on the moon. According to Stott, the tests are a proof-of-concept for disaster recovery and “refresh and restore” capabilities. Lonestar will also send documents to the spacecraft.

“This is the big one for us,” Stott explained. “We have two test missions this year. Both are going to the Moon, but the ones that come after that are going to orbit around the Moon. So, we’re getting to test right where we’ll be in space.”

Since 2018, Lonestar has been preparing for this moment. Among the company’s initial clients was Space Florida, and representatives attended the launch as guests.

Stott praised the group for being “really forward-looking” in seeing the advantages of the mission. He thinks that the Moon, the planet’s largest satellite, offers the perfect location for safeguarding the world’s progressively larger data sets against both natural and artificial threats.

The history of the space industry already includes Lonestar. Odysseus’s primary engine, which runs on liquid oxygen and methane for deep-space fuel, has never been used by Intuitive Machines.

In a recent report, AmeriSpace referred to that as more than “just a curiosity”. The author went on, “The Artemis program is enabled by the long-term storage of liquid cryogenic propellants.”

Through its long-planned Artemis missions, NASA will set foot on the Moon for the first woman and person of color. The group will also create the first permanent lunar presence in cooperation with business partners like Intuitive Machines.

Cryogenic fuels are less hazardous and more effective than alternative storable propellants, according to AmeriSpace. That will allow Odysseus to travel less than a week to reach the Moon.

If Odysseus is successful, it will be the first American spacecraft since NASA’s Apollo 17 mission in December 1972 to successfully land on the moon. We decided to collaborate with Intuitive Machines since they have a fantastic team, according to Stott.

“There were many other providers we could have gone with,” he added. “But we looked at the strength of their management team, their experience in space operations coming out of NASA … It was really the people, and that’s how we made our choice.”

A problem with the rocket fuel caused a day-long delay in the launch. Considering that engineers are “hurling things out into the void” to do previously unimaginable feats, Scott compared that to a small annoyance.

On December 15, Lonestar, which is situated in the Innovation District of St. Petersburg at the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub, officially inaugurated its mission control center. The building bears the name of Stott’s mentor, NASA engineer Jay F. Honeycutt, whose vision helped rescue the Apollo 13 lunar landing crew in 1970.

“He said, ‘Look, no matter how frustrating, it’s always better to be down here (Earth) wishing you were up there – than up there, wishing you were down here,’” Stott said of Honeycutt. “Is it frustrating? Of course, it is. Is it also reassuring? Yes, because you know they’re checking absolutely everything before that $67 million launch vehicle takes off.”

Furthermore, he stated that the launch window was limited to 15 seconds. Due to the delay, Odysseus departed Earth on Ernest Shackleton’s 120th birthday—famous for having explored the South Pole.

The spacecraft will land on the Moon’s South Pole. “So, that’s kind of appropriate,” Stott said.

He thinks the Independence objective will contribute to St. Petersburg’s growing standing as a hub for new technology and entrepreneurs. Also, Stott hopes that other space-related businesses would take note of what he has been observing in the city for years.