Meet the ASCEND Guiding Coalition
The ASCEND Guiding Coalition is an advisory board of technology, science, engineering, and business leaders selected to help maximize our year-round reach and impact, including the design and content of our centerpiece annual event.
From rockets and payloads to policy, administration, and advocacy, the 33 members of the 2021 ASCEND Guiding Coalition bring an accumulated wealth of experience — millions of miles and billions of dollars invested in space — to inform and inspire the ASCEND community.
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. Prior to joining Blue, Rob was a Senior 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.
Previously, Ms. Sigur was Vice President, Engineering, Space, for Lockheed Martin Corporation (LM). In this capacity, she was responsible for leading LM’s space engineering personnel development and deployment; engineering processes, tools & training; and product technical validation, with emphasis on ensuring operational excellence and first-time-right engineering. Over her career, Wanda has held multiple positions with increasing levels of responsibility. She led several critical initiatives for LM, including Vice President, Program Manager for the Space Shuttle External Tank (ET), responsible for return-to-flight following hurricane Katrina and the Columbia accident.
Ms. Sigur is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST), and participates on multiple committees for the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), including Chair of the Space Technology Industry Government University Roundtable (STIGUR) for the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. She graduated from Rice University, BSMSE, and Tulane University, MBA.
Previously, he had served as 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.
Lt. Gen. Armagno earned her commission and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in June 1988. She is a career space operator with more than 32 years of operational experience. She is the only person to have commanded both launch wings in the United States Air Force, and she is the first woman general officer commissioned in the United States Space Force.
Prior to her current assignment, Lt. Gen. Armagno was the Director, Space Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Arlington, Virginia. She directed the development and procurement of space programs to Air Force major commands, product centers and laboratories. Her responsibilities included crafting program strategies and options for representing Air Force positions to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the office of the Secretary of Defense, Congress and the White House. She has also served as Director of Plans and Policy, U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. She was directly responsible to the USSTRATCOM Commander for the development and implementation of national security policy and guidance, military strategy, space and weapons employment policy and concepts and joint doctrine as they apply to the command and the execution of its mission. She also served as the Director of Strategic Plans, Programs, Requirements and Analysis, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, Colorado; Commander, 45th Space Wing, and Director, Eastern Range, Patrick AFB, Florida; Commander, 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg AFB, California; Commander and Deputy Commander, 21st Operations Group, Peterson AFB, Colorado; Senior Military Assistant and Chief of Staff to the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, Office of the Secretary of Defense; Squadron and Installation Commander, 6th Space Warning Squadron, Cape Cod Air Force Station, Massachusetts; and Director of Operations, 1st Space Launch Squadron, Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida. Her experience in space systems operations includes combat-mission-ready operator, instructor, evaluator and flight commander in strategic missile warning, space surveillance, space control, space launch and theater missile warning mission areas. In addition, she has held staff assignments at Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Headquarters 14th Air Force and the 381st Training Group, and has served as an Air Force Legislative Fellow in the Office of Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher.
Previously, she served at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum as the John and Adrienne Mars Director, a position she started 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.
Notable space-related transactions include Harris Corporation’s acquisition of Exelis and its merger-of-equals with L3 Technologies, the IPO’s of Parsons Corporation, Aeroflex and Booz Allen Hamilton, the acquisition financing for GenCorp’s acquisition of Rocketdyne, and work for several commercial space companies, including Morgan Stanley’s role as one of the two Lead Active Bookrunners on Virgin Galactic’s August 2020 $460MM equity follow-on offering.
Phil graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) and Bachelor of Laws (Hons). During and after his five years at university, he served as an Infantry Officer in the Australian Army Reserve. Phil currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife Laura and their four daughters.
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.
Previously, he served as special advisor to NASA's deputy administrator, 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.
Included in that portfolio is a plant that is disassembling and destroying surplus U.S. chemical weapons in Colorado and a sister plant in Kentucky expected to start operations in 2019. Michael also oversees the test operations and sustainment contract at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex for the U.S. Air Force, with ground test facilities in Tennessee, California, and Maryland.
Michael joined Bechtel in 2011 as manager of corporate quality and Six Sigma, where he guided improvements to our quality management system to benefit project delivery.
He then joined the $16.8 billion Hanford Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) project as manager of Quality and EPC Functions, and was named president and general manager of the Waste Treatment and Completion Company – a 1,500 person Bechtel-led company responsible for construction, startup, and commissioning of the WTP.
In 2018, Michael was named principal associate laboratory director for Capital Projects as Los Alamos National Laboratory, a premier national security science institution with more than 11,000 employees.
Prior to joining Bechtel, Michael spent 25 years in the defense and space industry working for leading companies such as Raytheon, Boeing, and Rockwell. At Boeing, he led the Delta IV launch vehicle’s first stage rocket propulsion system project.
Michael was elected a Bechtel principal vice president in 2012.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in business and management from Pepperdine University and earned a certificate in Bechtel’s General Management Plan.
Previously, Magnus served as 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.
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.
Dr. Pandya was part of the first crew to test a commercial spacesuit in zero-gravity in 2015. Dr. Pandya earned her aquanaut designation during the 2019 NEPTUNE (Nautical Experiments in Physiology, Technology and Underwater Exploration) mission. She previously served as Commander during a 2020 tour at the Mars Desert Research Station. Her expeditions were captured in the Land Rover short, released with the Apollo 11: First Steps film. She previously interned at ESA’s European Astronaut Center and NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Her publications include book chapters on space spin-offs for medical benefit, psychological resilience in long-duration spaceflight, and reproduction and sexuality in long-duration spaceflight.
Dr. Pandya was named one of the Women’s Executive Network’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada in 2020, was granted an Honorary Fellowship in Extreme and Wilderness Medicine by the World Extreme Medicine organization in 2021, was one of 50 physicians selected to attend the 2021 European Space Agency Space Medicine Physician Training Course, and has recently been named a Canadian Space Agency Space Ambassador. In 2019, Dr. Pandya’s career and trajectory were captured at the Ontario Science Center’s “Canadian Women in Space,” exhibit, where Dr. Pandya is permanently exhibited alongside Dr. Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space (and Dr. Pandya’s idol growing up).
Earlier in his career, Gazarik served as deputy director for programs at NASA's Langley Research Center in the Engineering Directorate. Prior to joining NASA, Gazarik served as project manager for the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory. He also led the development of the Airborne Sounder Testbed-Interferometer, an instrument that helps scientists understand temperature and water vapor profiles of the Earth's atmosphere. Gazarik also worked in the private sector on software and firmware development for commercial and government applications including telecommunications and signal processing.
Gazarik understands that diverse teams develop better solutions. Under his leadership, engineering at Ball Aerospace has seen marked increase in diversity at all levels of the organization. Forty percent of the engineering directors are women, and overall diversity of department has increased by more than 10%. He served as an executive sponsor for the LGBTA Ball Resource Group and a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, and a member of the Society of Women Engineers.
Gazarik earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1987 and was a General Motors Scholar. He earned an M.S. in 1989 and a Ph.D. in 1997, both in electrical engineering, from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a Fellow of the AIAA, and a member of the Engineering Advisory Board for the University of Colorado’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, the University of Pittsburgh’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, and the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering Department. He also serves on the NASA Advisory Committee for Technology and Innovation. Gazarik has received numerous awards, including NASA's Outstanding Leadership Medal, a Silver Snoopy Award, one of NASA's highest honors, and was selected as a Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering in 2018. He is a leader in Boy Scouts of America, coached and refereed youth lacrosse, and led the development of lacrosse programs in the Hampton Roads area.
Harroun is a PhD student in the school of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at Purdue University. She currently researches rotating detonation engines and how to improve chemical rocket engine performance. Alexis graduated with her master’s from Purdue and her bachelor’s from the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Washington. She is a member of the AIAA Young Professional Group. Alexis is a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow and was one of Aviation Week’s 20 Twenties in 2019.
Previously, Professor Newman served as 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.
Previously, Nygren was general manager of the Corporate Chief Engineer’s Office (CCEO) and corporate chief engineer at Aerospace. In this role, he was responsible for leading efforts within the corporation and externally to advance mission assurance practices, identify improvements in engineering developments and practices, engage with industry and senior customers, and accelerate the growth of new architectures and capabilities in the national security space enterprise with a special focus on integrating the space enterprise. In addition to his role as the corporate chief engineer, Nygren established the corporation’s inaugural support to the portfolio architect as part of the Space and Missile Systems Center 2.0 initiative, with key goals of establishing integrated architectures that can outpace the threat.
Nygren joined Aerospace as a summer hire in 1985 and, then, as a member of the technical staff in 1987. He held positions of varying responsibility in the MILSATCOM Division, culminating in 2002 as principal director, EHF Systems, where he oversaw the program definition and eventual development of the AEHF space, ground control, and mission planning elements; the Enhanced Polar Systems; and sustainment of the legacy Milstar system. Nygren then served as general manager in the Systems Engineering Division and the Development Planning and Architecture Division.
Previously, Robert Curbeam served as 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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Dittmar founded and was most recently President & CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, an industry trade group of more than 60 companies supporting NASA’s programs in human exploration and science and promoting space commerce and the development of space technology. Her previous experience includes roles as Senior Policy Advisor for the ISS National Laboratory, Member of the Board of Directors at the American Astronautical Society, and managing the Flight Operations Group and serving as the Chief Scientist for Commercial Payloads on the ISS Program at Boeing.
The most consequential committees in the space industry count Dr. Dittmar as a member: the National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group, the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), and the Executive Committee for the Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Science (6-year term ends May, 2021). A holder of B.A. and M.A. degrees in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Factors from the University of Cincinnati, she is also Fellow of the National Research Society and an Associate Fellow of AIAA and previously served on the National Research Council’s Committee on Human Spaceflight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently retired from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory after 35 years of service, Cheryl became widely recognized in the space science community as an innovative leader, a trusted partner, and an effective and respected advocate for NASA programs and capabilities. Ms. Reed has held major program management roles for more than 25 national and international civil and national security space programs. Ms. Reed was the APL Civil Space Strategic Integration Manager and Program Manager for DART, NASA's first planetary defense mission. Under her leadership, many of APL’s most innovative architectures and missions have been formulated from the ground up including, NASA’s New Frontiers-4 nuclear-powered Dragonfly Mission to Titan. Ms. Reed has served on NASA non-advocate review boards, including Chair for the NEXT-C Electric Propulsion System and GRAIL Mission Standing Review Board (SRB), and Executive Council member to NASA’s Radioisotope Power Systems Program and Next-Generation RTG Team.
Ms. Reed earned a Master of Art in International Affairs from the American University in 1985 and a Bachelor of Business Administration from New England College in 1982.
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.
Rush is a member of the NASA Advisory Council and serves as Chairman of its Regulatory and Policy Committee. Rush also serves on the Physics Advisory Group at the University of North Florida.
Previously, Rush served as president and CEO of Made In Space, leading its growth and eventual acquisition by Redwire. Prior to his time at Made In Space, Rush was a partner in a boutique patent law firm.
Prior to joining Global Sales and Marketing, Beckman was the director of NASA programs for Boeing Government Operations, and was responsible for development, implementation, and support of Capitol-based campaigns to sustain overall industry growth and company objectives for future competitive opportunities. Working with Executive Branch offices, and Legislative Branch activities, he helped to shape the future of human space exploration through capabilities and systems development in support of NASA.
He began his career at Rockwell International’s Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, CA and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, working first as an engineer, then program management and industry advocacy.
A graduate of the Purdue University, Bill holds a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and aerospace engineering, with an MBA from Loyola University of Chicago.
He is the President of the National Space Club, and a member of the FAA - Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), American Institue of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and American Astronautics Society (AAS).
Previously, Sirisha served as the Associate Director for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry association of commercial spaceflight companies. At CSF, Sirisha worked on various policies with the aim to promote and enable the then emerging commercial space industry. Before CSF, she worked as an aerospace engineer designing components for advanced aircraft at L-3 Communications in Greenville, Texas. Sirisha serves on the Board of American Society for Gravitational and Space Research, American Astronautical Society, and the Future Space Leaders Foundation. She is also helps run the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program, a program for undergrad and graduate students to gain access to internships, mentorship, and a network in the commercial space industry.
Sirisha has a Bachelors of Science degree in aeronautical/astronautical engineering from Purdue and holds a Masters of Business Administration from the George Washington University.
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.