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Space industry veteran leads Lonestar’s lunar mission


When St. Petersburg engineer James Burns-Montante discovered that Will Hawkins, chief data officer of local tech firm Lonestar Data Holdings, purchased Montante’s Crescent Lake childhood home, he never imagined the bridged connection would lead to him becoming the lead engineer behind Lonestar’s mission to the Moon.

“I got to step inside my childhood home for the first time since 1994,” Burns-Montante said, recalling how conversations evolved into the duo finding common ground in sharing their passions about the space sector.

“It was wild; he and I were using the same type of software technology. He wanted to hire me part-time, but my company had very strict non-compete agreements. He said, ‘Let’s see what we can do to get you a full-time position.'”

Over the next several months, Burns-Montante continued to engage with Hawkins, who arranged and in-person introduction to CEO Chris Stott. 

St. Petersburg-based Lonestar Data Holdings Inc. is a data analytics startup that’s planning to build a network of data centers on the Moon.

Earlier this month, Lonestar, headquartered in the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub, officially announced Burns-Montante, who started working at Lonestar late last year, now has the title of Director of Flight Software. He will be leading the software functions for Lonestar to establish data centers on the lunar surface, expanding data storage opportunities for the government and private ventures. 

“Jim is a superb addition to our team. His experience is beyond compare and we are lucky to have him as we continue to build our presence here in Florida,” Stott said in a prepared statement. 

Burns-Montante will be the boots on the ground as Lonestar tests its proof-of-concept data center on the Moon inside a robotic lander, as part of space exploration company Intuitive Machines’ upcoming lunar missions.

The company previously signed a contract with SpaceX to launch several lunar lander missions with a Falcon 9 rocket.

Intuitive Machines’ first mission will take place in June.  

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