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Prominent space veterans join St. Pete startup’s leadership team

Mark Parker

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Dr. Jose Hernandez (left) and actor Michael Pena, who plays Hernandez in the biographical film "A Million Miles Away." Hernandez is among two recent additions to Lonstar Data Holdings' leadership team. Photo: NASA; Amazon.

A Mexican-American astronaut whose life inspired a movie and a former vice president at Virgin Orbit will help lead St. Peterburg-based Lonestar Data Holding into the future.

Lonestar operates out of the Innovation District’s Maritime and Defense Technology Hub and plans to build the first network of data centers on the Moon. Company officials announced Dec. 4 that Stephen Eisele would serve as its president and chief revenue officer.

Eisele previously served as vice president of business development at Virgin Orbit. The now-defunct subsidiary of billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space tourism company provided launch services for low-earth orbit satellites.

“Great people can do great things,” CEO Chris Stott told the Catalyst. “And we’re trying to do one of the hardest things that’s ever been done, which is save all of humanity’s data off-planet.”

Stephen Eisele, president and chief revenue officer of Lonestar Data Holdings. Photo: LinkedIn.

Eisele will spearhead Lonestar’s strategic initiatives in his new role, with a focus on increasing revenue and business development. In the Dec. 4 announcement, company officials credited Eisele’s “impressive track record” over his 19 years in the defense and aerospace industries.

Branson tasked Virgin Orbit with developing and marketing the LauncherOne rocket, previously a Virgin Galactic project. LauncherOne made four successful flights – with two failures – from 2020 to 2023.

Eisele oversaw Virgin Orbit’s international spaceport infrastructure and developed global partnerships. Lonestar officials believe he will help the local startup achieve its “vision of transforming data infrastructure beyond Earth’s boundaries.”

“The company’s vision for the in-space and lunar data center industry is both ambitious and groundbreaking,” said Eisel in a prepared statement. “I look forward to leveraging my experience to contribute to Lonestar’s success and play a key role in shaping the future of space-based data solutions.”

Company officials announced Dr. Jose Hernandez joined Lonestar’s board of directors Nov. 1. The retired NASA astronaut and U.S. Department of Energy executive now serves as CEO of Tierra Lunar, a space engineering and consulting firm.

In September, Amazon released a biographical film detailing his life. A Million Miles Away highlights Hernandez’s journey from a young migrant boy helping his parents pick grapes in California to the Space Shuttle program.

Actor Michael Pena plays an adult Hernandez, who NASA eventually selected to serve as a mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. He spent 13 days at the International Space Station in 2008.

In a prepared statement, Hernandez expressed his excitement to “be a part of a company that is at the forefront of technological innovation and is making a meaningful impact in the data management and technology sector. I look forward to contributing to Lonestar Data Holdings’ growth and continued success.”

According to Lonestar’s announcement, Hernandez is a non-executive director and previously served on the company’s advisory board. Company officials believe Hernandez’s experience and guidance position the local startup as an industry leader, and his unique perspective on space and government will increase the board’s capabilities.

“The Golden Rule in management is always finding people more capable, more intelligent than yourself and delegate,” Stott said. “The fact that Dr. Jose Hernandez and Steve Eisele both chose to join us speaks volumes about the importance of our mission and the members of our existing team … all experts in their field.”

Chris Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar Data Holdings.

Stott explained that people create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily. He said that the number doubles biannually.

A group of customers approached him seeking a safe place to store that vast amount of information, and Stott said they considered creating data centers underwater or inside mountains. However, he said natural and man-made threats abound, even in the most remote places.

“So, we looked at Earth’s largest satellite – the Moon,” Stott added. “It’s purpose-built. If the Moon wasn’t there, it’s so good for this that we’d have to build it.”

Stott previously worked at leading aerospace conglomerates like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. He founded Lonestar in 2018 and moved it to the Hub in 2021.

Stott said he and his “incredible” team strive to merge the best aspects of Silicon Valley and space to provide a global service. He believes St. Petersburg is the “perfect place on the planet” to accomplish that goal.

“It’s the one place where these two verticals meet seamlessly,” Stott said.

National security operations delayed a November launch from Cape Canaveral to test data transmissions – including the Declaration of Independence – to and from the Moon. Stott said Lonestar’s first mission is now set for Jan. 12.

 

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