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The Guiding Coalition

The ASCEND experience is crafted with the support of world-renowned leaders in the space industry. AIAA and ASCEND’s Guiding Coalition have spent the past year investing time and resources into crafting the most multidisciplinary curriculum the space community has ever seen.

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Rob Meyerson

ASCEND Executive Producer

Rob Meyerson is the Executive Producer of ASCEND and leads the Guiding Coalition. He is the founder and CEO of Delalune Space, a management consulting company focused on the aerospace, mobility and technology sectors. Rob is the former President of Blue Origin.

Rob oversaw the steady growth of Blue Origin from 2003 to 2018, building the company from its founding into a more than 1500-person organization. Under Rob’s leadership, Blue Origin developed the New Shepard system for suborbital human and research flights, the BE-3 LOX/LH2 rocket engine, the BE-4 LOX/LNG rocket engine, the New Glenn launch vehicle and its vision for humanity in space; including the Blue Moon lunar lander, human spacecraft, habitats and in-space tugs. During this time, Rob oversaw Blue’s growth in staff (10 to 1500+), budget ($10M to $1B) and facilities (1 site to 6, 50K to 1M+ sq ft).
Prior to joining Blue, Rob was a Senior Program Manager at Kistler Aerospace. Rob began his career as an aerodynamicist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC).

Rob earned a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Houston. He is an AIAA Fellow, a Trustee of the Museum of Flight in Seattle and a member of the University of Michigan College of Engineering Leadership Advisory Board. Rob was awarded the Space Flight Award by the American Astronautical Society in 2017 for his accomplishments at Blue Origin.

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Ellen Stofan

National Air and Space Museum

Ellen R. Stofan joined the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum as the John and Adrienne Mars Director in April 2018.

Stofan comes to the position with more than 25 years’ experience in space-related organizations and a deep research background in planetary geology. She was chief scientist at NASA (2013–2016), serving as the principal advisor to former Administrator Charles Bolden on NASA’s strategic planning and programs. She helped guide the development of a long-range plan to get humans to Mars, and worked on strategies for NASA to support commercial activity in low Earth orbit as it transitions from the International Space Station (ISS) to sending humans to the Moon and Mars in the mid-2020s. She supported NASA’s overall science programs in heliophysics, Earth science, planetary science, and astrophysics. While at NASA, she worked with President Barack Obama’s science advisor and the National Science and Technology Council on science policy.

An accomplished public speaker, Stofan has addressed the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of Space Technologies at Davos and served as co-chair of the council. She has spoken at the World Science Festival, SciFest Africa, and numerous universities and schools around the world.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in geology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and her master’s and doctoral degrees at Brown University, both in geological sciences. While finishing her doctoral degree, Stofan joined the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) as a post-doctoral fellow and became the deputy project scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus.

In 1994, Stofan became JPL’s chief scientist for the New Millennium Program where she managed a team of about 100 scientists working on new technologies. The following year, Stofan moved to London while continuing to work at JPL and was, and continues to be, an Honorary Professor at University College London.

For 13 years (2000–2013), Stofan was vice president and senior scientist at Proxemy Research, a consulting firm in the Washington area specializing in planetary research.
She was on the board of the College of William & Mary Foundation for 10 years, serving as board chair and co-chair of the development committee as it planned a $1 billion fundraising campaign.

Stofan’s research focuses on the geology of Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, and Earth. Her favorite mission was Cassini, primarily because of her interest in Titan.

She has published extensively and received many awards and honors, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and was named one of “CNN’s Extraordinary People of 2014.” She is co-author of the books Planetology: Unlocking the Secrets of the Solar System and Next Earth: What Our World Can Teach Us About Other Planets, both published by National Geographic.

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Fred Kennedy


Dr. Fred Kennedy is the President of Momentus, a Silicon Valley company preparing to transport satellites in orbit.

He was previously the Vice President for Future Missions at Astra, a space startup headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area, and is a member of multiple space company advisory boards. He served as the inaugural Director of the U. S. Department of Defense (DoD) Space Development Agency (SDA), established by Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan in March 2019. The SDA’s mission is to define and monitor the DoD’s future threat-driven space architecture and to accelerate the development and fielding of new military space capabilities necessary to ensure U.S. technological and military advantage in space for national defense.

From 2017 until he became the SDA Director, Dr. Kennedy was the Director of the Tactical Technology Office (TTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Prior to joining DARPA, he was detailed to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as the senior policy advisor for national security space and aviation. In this role, Dr. Kennedy advised the President of the United States on matters related to space and aviation policy.

Dr. Kennedy served 23 years in the United States Air Force, retiring as a colonel. During his tenure, he served as a Senior Materiel Leader in both the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Remote Sensing Directorate and the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center’s Battle Management Directorate, leading efforts to produce and sustain Space Based Infrared Systems satellites, the U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, and the Joint STARS airborne ground surveillance aircraft fleet. Prior to that, he led the development of Space Requirements for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and served in multiple engineering and management roles at the National Reconnaissance Office. From 2005 to 2008, Dr. Kennedy was assigned by the Air Force as a program manager at DARPA, where he created and managed efforts around spacecraft and satellite servicing, advanced space power and propulsion systems, and other innovative space technologies.

Dr. Kennedy holds a Ph.D. in electronics and physical sciences from the University of Surrey; a Master of Arts in organizational management from George Washington University; a Master of Arts in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College; and a Master of Science and Bachelor of Science, both in aeronautics and astronautics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Alec Gallimore

University of Michigan

Dr. Alec D. Gallimore is the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering at the University of Michigan. Dean Gallimore is a rocket scientist, and in 2019 was elected to the National Academy of Engineering–among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. He is a leader in the field of advanced electric propulsion, who has excelled in research, teaching and service. His experience and creativity have led to program innovations to assist the growth of faculty and students. He is passionate about creating an inclusive environment and ensuring all individuals are treated with equity.

Dean Gallimore has been a faculty member at the University of Michigan since January 1992. He is the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor of Engineering, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, and founder and director of the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory. He is also a member of the Applied Physics faculty. He co-founded MCubed, a real-time seed-funding program for high-risk, multidisciplinary research–now adopted University-wide.

Previously, Dean Gallimore served as associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering, where he had oversight of faculty hiring, promotion and tenure; merit reviews, budget reviews and planning; and space allocation. From 2011-2013, Dean Gallimore was associate dean for research and graduate education. In this role, he was responsible for the education and welfare of some 3300 graduate students and 200 postdoctoral fellows, and for overseeing a research enterprise that exceeded $200M annually in expenditures. From 2005 to 2011, he served as an associate dean at the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, where he developed and implemented programs in engineering, the physical sciences and mathematics. Dr. Gallimore’s term as Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering began in July 2016.

He has served on a number of advisory boards for NASA and the Department of Defense, including the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (AFSAB). He was awarded the Decoration for Meritorious Civilian Service in 2005 for his AFSAB work. In 2010, he was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He has graduated 40 Ph.D. students and 14 master’s students, and has written more than 360 publications on electric propulsion and plasma physics.
He currently serves on Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering External Advisory Board, the University of Colorado, Boulder College of Engineering & Applied Science External Advisory Council, Cornell’s Engineering College Council, the University Musical Society Board of Directors, the University of Michigan School of Nursing Board for Science and Innovation, the University of Michigan School of Education Dean’s Advisory Council, the Board of Directors for the Engineering Society of Detroit, and the Board of Directors for ANSYS, Inc.

Dean Gallimore received his BS in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer (RPI), and his MA and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Engineering with a focus on plasma physics from Princeton. His primary research interests include advanced spacecraft (electric) propulsion, plasma physics and advanced plasma diagnostics, nanoparticle energetics, and the use of plasma for energy transfer and environmental remediation.

Under Dean Gallimore’s ME 2020 strategic vision, Michigan Engineering is committed to becoming the world’s preeminent college of engineering serving the common good. The College is asserting a leadership role and voice in: developing intellectually curious and socially conscious minds; collaboratively solving societal big problems, based on a strong foundation of breakthrough interdisciplinary research and forward-looking academic-industry partnerships; and promoting an inclusive and innovative community of service for the common good.

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George Whitesides

Virgin Galactic

George T. Whitesides is the CEO of Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, and The Spaceship Company, a manufacturer of advanced space vehicles. With its innovative spacecraft, the company seeks to transform access to space to change the world for good.

Prior to Virgin Galactic, George served as Chief of Staff for NASA. Upon departure from the American space agency, he received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.

He previously served as chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University and the board of Virgin Unite USA.

George has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy.

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Kay Sears

Lockheed Martin

Kay Sears is the Vice President and General Manager of the Military Space line of business for Lockheed Martin Space. In this capacity, Kay has general management responsibility for critical national security space programs including Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF), Defense Meteorological Space Program (DMSP), Global Positioning System (GPS), Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS), Space Protection and other Department of Defense space programs.

Previously, Kay was the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development where she was responsible for growing the Space business with a comprehensive strategy to develop new markets and expand core mission areas. She also led strategic planning, advanced technology concepts and new business acquisition efforts for each of the Space lines of business. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Kay served as president of Intelsat General. In this role, Kay was responsible for implementing the company’s strategic and operational plans and for the overall mission of providing a range of sustainable, cost-effective and secure communication solutions to government and commercial customers. Before joining Intelsat, Kay helped launch government services business units at both G2 Satellite Solutions and Verestar. With nearly three decades of experience, Kay is a respected leader in the space and satellite communications industry and has extensive experience in rapid-response solutions for both military and civil agencies of the U.S. government. In 2009, Kay was appointed to the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee to provide information, technical expertise, advice and guidance regarding issues that may affect national security telecommunications capabilities.

Kay has a B.S. in marketing and economics from the University of Richmond and an MBA in Information Systems from George Washington University.

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Mary Lynne Dittmar

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar is President and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, an industry trade group supporting human exploration, science, commerce, and American leadership in space. Under her leadership the Coalition has grown from 5 companies to more than 70 over the past four years and is a recognized source for policy, technical and business information in the aerospace and defense sector.

Earlier in her career Dr. Dittmar managed the mission operations group for The Boeing Company on the International Space Station Program. Later, she acted as a special advisor to the NASA Astronaut Office before her appointment as Boeing Chief Scientist for Commercial Utilization of the ISS. More recently she was Senior Policy Advisor to International Space Station National Laboratory. She has also served as a senior advisor to NASA, the DoD, and the FAA.

Mary Lynne is a Fellow of the National Research Society and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute for Astronautics and Aeronautics. From 2012-2014 she served as a member of the National Research Council Committee on Human Spaceflight, and is beginning her third term as a member of the Executive Committee of the Space Studies Board of the National Academies. She is also a member of the Users’ Advisory Group of the National Space Council and of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee for the FAA. Dr. Dittmar resides in Washington, D.C.

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Sandra Magnus

Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering

Dr. Sandra H. “Sandy” Magnus, is the Deputy Director of Engineering in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Prior to joining the DoD she served as the Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. Selected to the NASA Astronaut Corps in April, 1996, Dr. Magnus flew in space on the STS-112 shuttle mission in 2002, and on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011. In addition, she flew to the International Space Station on STS-126 in November 2008, served as flight engineer and science officer on Expedition 18, and returned home on STS-119 after four and a half months on board. Following her assignment on Station, she served at NASA Headquarters in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Her last duty at NASA, after STS-135, was as the deputy chief of the Astronaut Office. Before joining NASA, Dr. Magnus worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company from 1986 to 1991, as a stealth engineer. While at McDonnell Douglas, she worked on internal research and development and on the Navy’s A-12 Attack Aircraft program, studying the effectiveness of radar signature reduction techniques.
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Steve Isakowitz

The Aerospace Corporation

Steve Isakowitz is a recognized leader across the government and private sectors in the fields of space and technology.

As president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, a leading architect for the country’s national security and civil space programs, Mr. Isakowitz works with the U.S. government to advance the nation’s space enterprise and to develop strategies to ensure its preeminence. In this role, he leads Aerospace’s efforts to promote the mission success of various launches and on-orbit operations of systems for the U.S. Air Force and Intelligence Community while directing efforts to ensure greater resiliency in our nation’s space assets.

Prior to Aerospace, Mr. Isakowitz served as chief technology officer and later as president of Virgin’s space ventures business, where he led the development of privately funded launch systems, advanced technologies, and other new space applications. Previously, Mr. Isakowitz served as deputy associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA, where he guided the development of advanced technologies and promoted innovative approaches in the areas of space transportation and government-industry partnerships. Before his NASA work, he served as science and space programs branch chief at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Earlier in his career, he also managed the development of launch vehicles for Lockheed Martin.

In recognition of his achievements, Isakowitz has received numerous awards and citations, including NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award.

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Bill Gerstenmaier


William H. Gerstenmaier is special advisor to NASA's deputy administrator. He was appointed to the position in July 2019.

Previously, Gerstenmaier had been the associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. In this position, Gerstenmaier provided strategic direction for all aspects of NASA's human exploration of space and cross-agency space support functions of space communications and space launch vehicles. He provided programmatic direction for the operation and utilization of the International Space Station and its crew; development of the Gateway, Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft; and was providing strategic guidance and direction for the commercial crew and cargo programs.

Gerstenmaier began his NASA career in 1977 at the then Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, performing aeronautical research. He was involved with the wind tunnel tests that were used to develop the calibration curves for the air data probes used during entry on the Space Shuttle.

Beginning in 1988, Gerstenmaier headed the Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle (OMV) Operations Office, Systems Division at the Johnson Space Center. He was responsible for all aspects of OMV operations at Johnson, including development of a ground control center and training facility for OMV, operations support to vehicle development, and personnel and procedures development to support OMV operations. Subsequently he headed the Space Shuttle/Space Station Freedom Assembly Operations Office, Operations Division. He was responsible for resolving technical assembly issues and developing assembly strategies.

Gerstenmaier also served as Shuttle/Mir Program operations manager. In this role, he was the primary interface to the Russian Space Agency for operational issues, negotiating all protocols used in support of operations during the Shuttle/Mir missions. In addition, he supported NASA 2 operations in Russia, from January through September 1996 including responsibility for daily activities, as well as the health and safety of the NASA crewmember on space station Mir. He scheduled science activities, public affairs activities, monitored Mir systems, and communicated with the NASA astronaut on Mir.

In 1998, Gerstenmaier was named manager, Space Shuttle Program Integration, responsible for the overall management, integration, and operations of the Space Shuttle Program. This included development and operations of all Space Shuttle elements, including the orbiter, external tank, solid rocket boosters, and Space Shuttle main engines, as well as the facilities required to support ground processing and flight operations.

In December 2000, Gerstenmaier was named deputy manager, ISS Program, and two years later became manager. He was responsible for the day-to-day management, development, integration, and operation of the space station. This included the design, manufacturing, testing, and delivery of complex space flight hardware and software, and for its integration with the elements from international partners into a fully functional and operating space station.

Named associate administrator for the Space Operations Directorate in 2005, Gerstenmaier directed the safe completion of the last 21 Space Shuttle missions that witnessed assembly completion of the International Space Station. During this time, he provided programmatic direction for the integration and operation of the ISS, space communications, and space launch vehicles.

Gerstenmaier received a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University in 1977 and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Toledo in 1981. He completed course work early in his career for a doctorate in dynamics and control with emphasis in propulsion at Purdue University, and in spring 2019, he will receive an honorary doctorate from his alma mater.

For his technical contributions and leadership in national and international human spaceflight programs, Gerstenmaier was elected into the 2018 class of the National Academy of Engineering.

Gerstenmaier is the recipient of numerous awards, including three NASA Certificates of Commendation, two NASA Exceptional Service Medals, a Senior NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award, and Distinguish Executive Presidential Rank Award. He also was honored with an Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award from Purdue University. Additionally, he was twice honored by Aviation Week and Space Technology for outstanding achievement in the field of space. His other awards include: the AIAA International Cooperation Award; the National Space Club Astronautics Engineer Award; National Space Club Von Braun Award; the Federation of Galaxy Explorers Space Leadership Award; AIAA International Award; the AIAA Fellow; Purdue University Distinguished Alumni Award; and honored at Purdue as an Old Master in the Old Masters Program; recipient of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement's National Space Trophy; Space Transportation Leadership Award; the AIAA von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management; and the AIAA von Karman Lectureship in Astronautics.

He is married to the former Marsha Ann Johnson. They have two children.

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Dava Newman

Massachussets Institute of Technology

Professor Dava Newman is the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Harvard–MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology faculty member. Her research in multidisciplinary aerospace biomedical engineering investigates human performance across the spectrum of gravity, including space suits, life support and astronaut performance. Newman has been the principal investigator on 4 spaceflight missions. Known for her second skin BioSuit™ planetary spacesuit, her inventions are now being applied to “soft suits” to enhance locomotion on Earth. Her BioSuit™ has been exhibited at the Venice Biennial, American Museum of Natural History, Victoria and Albert and Museum, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her latest research with Gui Trotti includes Earth Speaks™ – an open source platform of curated space data that applies AI to help accelerate actions and solutions to help regenerate Earth’s oceans, land and climate. Newman is the author of Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design and has >300 publications. Dr. Dava Newman served as NASA Deputy Administrator from 2015–2017, and was responsible for articulating the agency's vision, providing leadership and policy direction, and representing NASA to the White House, Congress, international space agencies, and industry. Dr. Newman was the first female engineer and scientist to serve in this role and was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
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Dan Dumbacher


Dan Dumbacher is the Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

Before joining the AIAA staff in January 2018, Dumbacher was a Professor of Engineering Practice in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University, where he taught courses in systems thinking, systems engineering, and space policy.

Prior to Purdue, Dumbacher served as the Deputy Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Development Division, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. In that capacity, he provided leadership and management as the Program Director for Exploration Systems Development, which included: the Space Launch System, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations development and integration efforts. He led a national team of over 5,000, spanning all NASA centers and industry, and was responsible for a $3 billion annual budget.

During his career, he has received numerous awards and honors including the coveted Silver Snoopy Award and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. In 2015, Purdue recognized him with the Gustafson Teaching Award.

Dumbacher earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has also completed the Senior Managers in Government program at Harvard University.

Dumbacher is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana. He and his wife Lee have three grown children.

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Debra Facktor

AIRBUS U.S. Space & Defense, Inc.

Debra Facktor is Head of U.S. Space Systems for Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, Inc., reporting to the Chairman and President of Airbus U.S. She joined the company in March 2020 and is responsible for managing the two businesses within U.S. Space Systems: National Security Space and Space Exploration. She also serves on the board of the Airbus OneWeb Satellites Joint Venture.

For more than 30 years, Debra has guided new and established companies through unprecedented industry change. Her leadership and strategic vision have enhanced business growth and fostered new paradigms for industry collaboration. A business leader and systems thinker, she is known for her ability to see opportunity in change and for developing proactive plans that anticipate and leverage evolving market landscapes. With an emphasis on teamwork, mentoring, diversity and inclusion, she brings people and ideas together to make a positive impact.

Through January 2020, Debra was Vice President and General Manager of Strategic Operations for Ball Aerospace, where she elevated the company’s profile across multiple stakeholder communities and expanded its strategic capabilities in defense, civil and commercial sectors. Debra represented Ball Aerospace as its senior executive in the Washington, DC area, where she led the company’s Washington Operations, Marketing & Communications, and Strategic Development portfolios. She transformed the strategic planning process and implemented an enterprise-wide integrated strategic plan, leading to tremendous and sustainable multi-sector growth.

Prior to joining Ball in January 2013, Debra served as the president of DFL Space LLC, an aerospace consulting firm focused on developing innovative business strategies for its clients. As an industry professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, she also led its Masters of Engineering in Technical Leadership program, served as Director of Strategic Programs for the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) and was Principal Investigator on research sponsored by the U.S. Air Force.

Her extensive business experience includes serving as president and an owner of AirLaunch LLC, a small business that won funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force to develop an operationally responsive small launch vehicle. She served as vice president of Business Development and Strategic Planning for Kistler Aerospace Corporation, which raised over $600M in private capital to develop a reusable launch vehicle for commercial markets and laid the groundwork for commercial resupply of the International Space Station. Earlier in her career, she was chief of Moscow Operations for ANSER’s Center for International Aerospace Cooperation.

Debra is actively engaged as an advisor, mentor and board member in the aerospace community, with organizations such as the University of Michigan Industrial Advisory Board, Intelligence and National Security Association (INSA), American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Future Space Leaders Foundation, Brooke Owens and Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Programs, Women in Aerospace (WIA), WIA Foundation and the International Women’s Forum. She is a fellow of AIAA and the American Astronautical Society (AAS) and an academician of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).

Debra received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering, both from the University of Michigan, and is an alumna of the International Space University summer session program in Space Policy & Law in Strasbourg, France.

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Jim Chilton

Boeing Defense, Space & Security

Jim Chilton is senior vice president of the Space and Launch division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS). Chilton assumed this role in April 2018 as BDS announced a new operating structure to sharpen focus on key markets and move faster to meet customers’ needs. It realigned his previous Space and Missile Systems organization created in July 2017 to focus entirely on space and launch programs for government and commercial customers.

The Space and Launch portfolio includes the International Space Station; the CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle; NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS); government and commercial satellite systems; and Boeing’s participation in United Launch Alliance.

From October 2016 to the July 2017 restructuring of Boeing’s space and defense business, Chilton led Network & Space Systems (N&SS), which included much of the current Space and Launch portfolio. Prior to that role, starting in 2013, he was vice president and general manager of Strategic Missile & Defense Systems within N&SS. Previously, Chilton served as vice president and program manager for Exploration Launch Systems and led SLS, Boeing’s heavy lift launch vehicle program. Before SLS, Chilton served as program manager for the Checkout, Assembly and Payload Processing Services (CAPPS) contract at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. He led final assembly and testing of space shuttle and expendable launch vehicle payloads, including hardware destined for the International Space Station.

Chilton began his career with Boeing in 1984 as a turbo machinery development engineer at the Rocketdyne division in Canoga Park, Calif. He went on to hold a number of roles in engine test and launch operations.

Chilton has served on many boards, including the board of directors for the National Children's Advocacy Center and the International Astronautical Federation industry relations committee.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Washington State University and a master’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology. He also completed the systems acquisition course for general and flag officers at Defense Acquisition University and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s advanced management program.

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Tim Hughes


Tim Hughes leads the policy, regulatory, and global business development efforts at SpaceX. Joining in 2005 as the company’s first in‐house counsel, Tim defined SpaceX’s legal and government affairs functions from the ground up, helping to take the company from true start‐up to one of the world’s most recognizable and innovative technology firms. His responsibilities now span the company's government business development efforts in the civil and national security space markets, insurance, regulatory affairs, and launch licensing portfolios, as well as SpaceX's domestic and international policy agenda for both the launch services and satellite business sectors.
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Robert Lightfoot

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company

Robert M. Lightfoot Jr. has been NASA's associate administrator, the agency's highest-ranking civil servant, since Sept. 25, 2012.

Lightfoot served as NASA's acting administrator from Jan. 20, 2017 through April 23, 2018.

Before becoming assistant administrator, Lightfoot was director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Named to the position in August 2009, he headed one of NASA's largest field installations, which plays a critical role in NASA’s space operations, exploration and science missions. Lightfoot managed a broad range of propulsion, scientific and space transportation activities contributing to the nation's space program. He served as acting director of the center from March 2009 until his appointment as director.

From 2007 to 2009, Lightfoot was deputy director of the Marshall Center. Lightfoot served as manager of the Space Shuttle Propulsion Office at Marshall from 2005 to 2007, where he was responsible for overseeing the manufacture, assembly and operation of the primary shuttle propulsion elements: the main engines, external tank, solid rocket boosters and reusable solid rocket motors.

From 2003 to 2005, he served as assistant associate administrator for the Space Shuttle Program in the Office of Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. His responsibilities included space shuttle Return to Flight activities following the Columbia tragedy, technical and budgetary oversight of the $3 billion annual budget and initial transition and retirement efforts for shuttle infrastructure.

In 2002, Lightfoot was named director of the Propulsion Test Directorate at NASA's Stennis Space Center. He served as deputy director of the organization beginning in 2001, until his appointment as director.

Lightfoot began his NASA career at the Marshall Center in 1989 as a test engineer and program manager for the space shuttle main engine technology test bed program and the Russian RD-180 engine testing program for the Atlas launch vehicle program.

Lightfoot received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1986 from the University of Alabama. In October 2007, he was named Distinguished Departmental Fellow for the University of Alabama, Department of Mechanical Engineering. He was selected as a University of Alabama College of Engineering fellow in 2009. Lightfoot serves on the University of Alabama Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board. In 2010, he was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.

Lightfoot has received numerous awards during his NASA career, including a NASA Outstanding Leadership medal in 2007 for exemplary leadership of the Shuttle Propulsion Office, assuring safety for the return to flight of the space shuttle. In 2006, he was awarded the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executives, and in 2010 and 2016, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Executives -- the highest honors attainable for federal government work. In 2000, Mr. Lightfoot received a Spaceflight Leadership Recognition Award, which recognizes leaders who exemplify characteristics necessary for success. In 1999, NASA's astronaut corps presented him with a Silver Snoopy Award, which honors individuals who have made key contributions to the success of human spaceflight missions. He also received the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 1996 for significant contributions to NASA's mission.

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Robbie Schingler


Robbie Schingler is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Planet. Prior to Planet, Robbie spent 9 years at NASA, where he helped build the Small Spacecraft Office at NASA Ames and was Capture Manager for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Robbie later served as NASA’s Open Government Representative to the White House; and served as Chief of Staff for the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA. He received a MBA from Georgetown University, a Masters in Space Studies from the International Space University, and a BS in Physics from Santa Clara University. Robbie was a 2005 Presidential Management Fellow.
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Clay Mowry

Blue Origin

Clay Mowry is Vice President for global sales, marketing and customer experience at Blue Origin, a private space company developing launch vehicles and technologies that dramatically improve access to space for people and payloads. His mission is to provide customers with safe and affordable commercial space transportation services using the reusable New Shepard & New Glenn launch vehicles.

Clay came to Blue Origin from Arianespace, Inc. where he served for 15 years as Chairman and President. As the leader of Arianespace’s U.S. subsidiary, he was responsible for managing sales, marketing, strategy, communications and government relations activities in the region.

He also served for six years as the founding Executive Director for the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), a non-profit alliance of satellite operators, manufacturers, and ground equipment suppliers.

Prior to his role at SIA, Clay worked as a commercial space industry analyst and Senior International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.

Clay Mowry received a Master of Business of Administration from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor of Arts in politics and government from Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio.

In addition to his work at Blue Origin, Clay is the Vice President of Finance for the International Astronautical Federation. He currently serves on the advisory boards of Via Satellite magazine and the Space Generation Advisory Council. Clay is also the founder and Chairman of the Future Space Leaders Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the career development of young space and satellite industry professionals.

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Jim Maser

Aerojet Rocketdyne

Jim Maser is Senior Vice President of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Space Business Unit. In this role, he is responsible for leading the design, development, test and manufacturing for launch and space propulsion systems.

Mr. Maser has more than 32 years of global aerospace experience and leadership, spanning entrepreneurial space launch, human spaceflight as well as commercial and military jet engines. He previously served as president of James G. Advisors, LLC, a strategy, leadership and technical execution consulting firm. Prior to that, he held a number of roles within Pratt & Whitney between 2006 and 2017, including vice president of the F135 engine program and president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, where he was responsible for the design, manufacture and performance of power and propulsion systems across numerous platforms.

A long-time leader in the aerospace industry, Mr. Maser has extensive experience in program management, design and engineering leadership. Beginning with the Boeing Delta and Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle programs in structural design, he became lead of advanced studies in systems integration and was one of the key architects of the evolution of Delta II to Delta IV. In 1998, he transitioned to chief engineer of Sea Launch. Before joining McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) in the 1980s, he was a research fellow at NASA/Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center.

Mr. Maser graduated magna cum laude from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and a Master of Science in Engineering. He later received a Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2000, the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) honored him with its George M. Low Space Transportation Award.

Additionally, he currently serves on the board of trustees and is the immediate past president of AIAA. Mr. Maser also serves as an Advisory Board Member for Firefly Aerospace Inc. He previously served on the board of directors of the Space Foundation as well as the California Chamber of Commerce.


Tory Bruno

United Launch Alliance

Salvatore T. “Tory” Bruno is the president and chief executive officer for United Launch Alliance (ULA). In this role, Bruno serves as the principal strategic leader of the organization and oversees all business management and operations.

Prior to joining ULA, he served as the vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Strategic and Missile Defense Systems. The business is a leading provider of ballistic missile and ballistic missile defense systems, supporting U.S. Department of Defense customers, as well as the U.K. Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence. Programs included the Navy’s Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM), the Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Reentry Systems, and the Missile Defense Agency’s Terminal High Area Altitude Defense (THAAD), Targets and Countermeasures and CommonExoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) Concept Definition. He also managed the corporation’s responsibilities in Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Management Limited, a joint venture that produces and safely maintains the U.K.’s nuclear weapons. He is a former member of the board of directors of Lockheed Martin U.K. Ltd.

Bruno joined Lockheed Martin in 1984. He previously served as vice president and general manager of FBM and ICBM, as vice president of the THAAD Missile, as vice president of Engineering, as chief engineer for Strategic Missile Programs, as program manager for FBM Rocket Propulsion and in engineering positions involving design and analysis for control systems of rockets and hypersonic reentry vehicles. He holds several patents. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo, California, and has completed graduate courses and management programs at Harvard University, Santa Clara University, the Wye River Institute, San Jose State University and the Defense Acquisition University.

Bruno is serving as a member of the National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group chaired by Vice President Pence. In addition, he is an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Associate Fellow, a companion of the Naval Order of the United States, a member of the Navy League and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. He served on the National Blue Ribbon Panel for Bettering Engineering & Science Education and as Chairman of the Diversity Council of Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

He is the author of two books that explore the organization of the medieval Knights Templar from the perspective of modern business management: “Templar Organization: The Management of Warrior Monasticism” and “Templar Incorporated.” He is a recipient of the Order of Merit of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem.

Headshot Melissa Sampson

Melissa Sampson

Ball Aerospace

Melissa Sampson is a Senior Manager, Advanced Systems, at Ball Aerospace, supporting the company’s Civil Space business unit. In this role, Sampson is responsible for business development and program management.

Prior to joining Ball, Sampson worked at United Launch Alliance (ULA), where she worked as a program manager for cislunar technologies. Her experience gained at ULA spans business development, advanced programs, engineering, contracts and government affairs. Additionally, Sampson is a frequent international and domestic speaker on topics related to the cislunar economy; next-generation technologies; and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Outside of the office, Sampson dedicates her time to developing the next-generation of aerospace leaders, through the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Diversity Scholars program, AIAA Diversity Working Group, AIAA Reusable Launch Vehicle Technical Committee and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Space Engineering and Construction technical committee. She was also s founding director for the Girls in STEM Board of Directors, an organization empowering and inspiring middle school and high school girls to pursue careers in STEM.

Sampson is an AIAA Associate Fellow, International Coaching Federation (ICF) Accredited Coach, Society of Women Engineers (SWE) member and a Lean & Six Sigma Black Belt. She holds a B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William & Mary and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Headshot Thomas Zurbuchen

Thomas Zurbuchen


Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen is the Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the Agency’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Previously, Zurbuchen was a professor of space science and aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He also was the university’s founding director of the Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering. Zurbuchen’s experience includes research in solar and heliospheric physics, experimental space research, space systems, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

During his career, Zurbuchen has authored or coauthored more than 200 articles in refereed journals on solar and heliospheric phenomena. He has been involved with several NASA science missions — Ulysses, the MESSENGER spacecraft to Mercury, and the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE). He also has been part of two National Academy standing committees, as well as various science and technology definition teams for new NASA missions.

Zurbuchen earned his Ph.D. in physics and master of science degree in physics from the University of Bern in Switzerland.

His honors include receiving the National Science and Technology Council Presidential Early Career for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) Award in 2004, a NASA Group Achievement Award for the agency’s Ulysses mission in 2006, and the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Young Researcher Award in 1996-1997.

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Bobby Braun

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Dr. Robert D. Braun has more than 30 years experience as a space systems engineer, technologist, and organizational leader. He is a recognized authority in the development of entry, descent and landing systems and has contributed to the formulation, development, and operation of multiple space flight missions.

Dr. Braun presently serves on the executive leadership team of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as Director for Planetary Science. From 2017-2019, he served as the Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. He previously served as a faculty member of the Georgia Institute of Technology and a member of the technical staff of the NASA Langley Research Center.

In 2010-2011, Dr. Braun served as the first NASA Chief Technologist in more than a decade. In this capacity, he was responsible for development of the Agency’s technology and innovation policy and programs. He created and led the initial implementation of a spectrum of NASA technology programs designed to build the capabilities required for our nation’s future space missions. This activity spanned all ten NASA Centers, industry and academia, and fostered partnerships between NASA and other government agencies.

Dr. Braun is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the AIAA and AAS, and the author or co-author of over 300 technical publications.

Headshot Robert Curbeam

Robert Curbeam

Northrop Grumman

Robert Curbeam is the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for the Tactical Space Systems division at Northrop Grumman Space Systems. Mr. Curbeam has held various positions in the aerospace and defense industry, including functional and profit and loss positions in Civil and Military Space, International Business, Mission Assurance, Quality, Six Sigma, and general management.

Prior to joining the private sector, Mr. Curbeam was a US naval officer for 23 years and an astronaut with NASA, logging more than 3,000 flight hours in 25 different aircraft and spacecraft. He held a wide range of positions with NASA as director of Safety, Reliability, and Quality Assurance for the Constellation program, deputy director of Flight Crew Operations; and Spacecraft Communicator (CAPCOM) branch chief. Curbeam was second-in-command for safety across NASA, as the deputy associate administrator of Safety and Mission Assurance at NASA headquarters. During his tenure with NASA, he served on three space shuttle missions and performed seven spacewalks. He is a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and Navy Test Pilot School and was lead project manager officer for the F-14 Air-to-Ground Weapons Separation Flight Test Program.

Mr. Curbeam holds two advanced degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California, and received his bachelor’s degree with merit in aerospace engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.