Lonestar emerges from stealth with plans for lunar data centers

TAMPA, Florida — Cloud computing startup Lonestar said on April 19 that it has hired Intuitive Machines, a commercial developer of lunar landers, to deploy a proof-of-concept mini data center on the Moon next year.

The hardcover novel-sized “data center in a box” is part of a series of ever-increasing payloads Lonestar plans to install for data storage and edge processing on the lunar surface.

According to Lonestar, operating the moon’s data center resources offers a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to deploying energy-intensive servers on Earth.

The Florida-based venture said its initial hardware is joining IM-2, Intuitive Machines’ second mission to the moon, which aims to bring a collection of government and commercial cargo to the lunar south pole aboard its Nova-C spacecraft. .

Lonestar said it also signed a contract with Intuitive Machines to test data transfer and storage capabilities during the first mission by lander developer IM-1, which will attempt to land Nova-C at Oceanus Procellarum, located on west edge of the near side of the moon. These tests will use a software-only “virtual payload”.

The IM-1 was scheduled to launch in 2021 before launch provider SpaceX pushed the mission to Q1 2022 because of its “unique mission requirements.” Further delays delayed the launch of Falcon 9 to the end of 2022.

The IM-2 is scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 in 2023, in what will be Intuitive Machines’ first dedicated launch, after previously targeting Q4 2022.

A spokesperson for Intuitive Machines said more information about the launch windows for the IM-1 and IM-2 will be announced “soon.”

guaranteed financing

Lonestar fully funded its IM-1 and IM-2 enabled demos with support from early stage investors Scout Ventures, Seldor Capital and 2 Future Holding, according to CEO and co-founder Chris Stott.

Stott said SpaceNews that the venture is also in the “final stages” of closing a $5 million seed funding round for future data centers.

Skycorp, a California company focused on orbital logistics, is building the first data center payload for Lonestar’s proof-of-concept service.

The 1-kilogram payload will have 16 terabytes (TB) of capacity, according to Stott, who said it passed the Preliminary Design Review and is heading to Critical Design Review.

“Our first lunar data center payload will be integrated into the IM-2 NOVA C once it passes the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) and completes testing, in line with expected flight milestones four months before launch,” he said.

While the initial charge will consume power and communications from the lander, Stott said the startup aims to have an autonomous data center on the Moon by 2026.

Prior to helping establish Lonestar in 2021, Stott co-founded UK-based ManSat and led the international spectrum regulation specialist for more than two decades.

Stott said the startup “secured S, X and Ka-Band archives” across the UK to transmit data to and from the moon to support its operations.

He said Lonestar hopes to pioneer a moon-based market for data centers to support anticipated demand for commercial, government and academic lunar missions.

While the space-qualified equipment Lonestar plans to use “cost a little more than terrestrial ones,” he said it is cheaper to operate and uses “a lot less energy.”

“The traditional costs and concerns of a terrestrial data center – power to run it, power to cool it, cost of communications – are quite different. [and] almost inverted in space,” he said.

“For example, the heat generated by the equipment becomes positive in the space where we work hard to keep our equipment warm. We can extract from green energy sources [solar] in space.”

Its first physical payload is a revenue-generating proof of concept for undisclosed customers, he said, and should only last for the duration of the IM-2 mission.

A spokesperson for Intuitive Machines said the IM-2’s surface operations should last around 11 to 14 days.

Lonestar’s future data centers are being designed to survive the lunar night, Stott said, and aim to match the 15- to 20-year lifecycle of satellites in geostationary orbit.

lunar backups

Rather than competing with terrestrial data centers, Lonestar aims to complement them in the disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) market by allowing organizations to back up critical systems by storing them on the moon.

Stott co-founded Lonestar with Mark Matossian, former CEO of the US subsidiary of Finnish radar satellite operator Iceye and head of data center hardware manufacturing at Google.

Former ABN AMRO and Morgan Stanley banker Carol Goldstein and Del Smith, former senior space business advisor at law firm Dentons, are also co-founders.

In December 2021, Lonestar said it worked with British software company Canonical and US-based space technology consolidator Redwire to successfully test their cutting-edge data center from the International Space Station.

NASA is helping to fund the Intuitive Machines landers. The Houston-based venture was one of the first to secure funding under the space agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.

CLPS is part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program that has helped attract investment in several startups with hopes of developing a moon-based economy.

Other companies that have announced plans to use Intuitive Machines landers to reach the moon include the Columbia Sportswear Company and time capsule enterprise Lunaprise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.