Payload Pioneers 2023: Payton Barnwell

As a product manager at SkyFi, Payton Barnwell is working to make Earth observation data exciting for everyone.

“Ever wondered how your favorite hiking trail looks from space? SkyFi can show you that! Planning a road trip and want to know the best spots for stargazing along the way? We’ve got you covered with stunning satellite imagery,” the 26-year-old wrote. 

The road to space: Her space journey began in college, turning a biology class project into a NASA-funded research effort. This initiative led her to an internship at NASA with the astronaut nutrition team. Later, she earned recognition in the Brooke Owens Fellowship (’18) and joined Virgin Galactic upon graduation.

She eventually transitioned to SkyFi, working on the Insights team. The product streamlines EO analytics, breaking down complex data into easily digestible answers. 

“She takes complicated space technology and articulates it in a way that not only makes sense, but is also cool and attractive to new users,” her colleague at SkyFi, Tom Babb, wrote in his nomination. “The SkyFi team can’t figure out where we want her because everything she touches helps make space technology more relevant to everyone.”  

Reaching out: As a first-generation college student, Barnwell was initially nervous about navigating the STEM field. However, her challenges became her superpower, pushing her to learn a little of everything and connect with anyone and everyone. Through initiatives like the Brooke Owens Fellowship and STEM outreach, she offers an example that space is a career for anyone.

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