It always is hard to compile a list of people who stand out in an industry with so many important players, but this year provided a special challenge – one that finally made us decide to add one more person to the list, but someone who for now will have to go unnamed.
No event of the past year generated as much controversy or as much discussion as China’s successful test of a kinetic anti-satellite weapon. In that Jan. 11 incident, China used a ground-based ballistic missile to intercept and destroy one of its aging weather satellites, spreading tens of thousands of pieces of debris throughout one of the Earth’
s most heavily used orbital planes.
The event sparked outrage around the world, a reaction that was so intense, that it reportedly caught the Chinese leadership by surprise. It also raised a lot of speculation about command and control in China and less weighty issues such as how much China’s Foreign Ministry was left in the dark about the exact timing of the test.
Our other choices were a little easier and as usual we have tried to recognize people from the civil, commercial and military sectors of the space business.
They are a diverse group but share in common traits of leadership and determination that left their mark on the industry.
The annual list of the French space agency’s near-term priorities, unveiled by
CNES President Yannickd’Escatha
in January, could not have been more different than the budget situation he faced in February 2003, when he took control of Europe’s largest national space program.
As it has for several years, the budget for CNES (the French acronym for national center of space studies) called for a flat annual contribution to the European Space Agency ( ), but it also provided for small 1.5 percent annual increases through 2010 – enough to fund some new initiatives.
While that might sound modest, it represents a major turnaround. In 2003 d’Escatha faced a looming crisis with a sizable debt, flagging government confidence in the agency and program commitments that far exceeded the CNES budget. Unlike NASA, most European space agencies get long-term budget commitments from their governments, but often have to take out short-term loans to smooth over year-to-year budget needs, which can leave them in debt.
Other nations that belong to the European Space Agency also were
harshly critical of France at that
time, following a December 2002 failure of the Ariane 5 rocket.
Since then d’Escatha has led a CNES financial turnaround that persuaded the French government to sign a five-year budget contract guaranteeing the annual budget and permitting CNES to plan in ways that most space agencies can only dream.
He did it with tough decision making that improved program management
and streamlined the way the agency spends money, and with a determination to seek better relationships with other agencies, including the French Ministry of Defense, a source of CNES funding.
Due in no small part to d’Escatha’s leadership, criticism of the Ariane 5 program also has largely disappeared with the success of Ariane 5 since then.
Despite the freeze on French contributions to ESA, France remains by far ESA’s largest contributor, accounting for about
25 percent of the space agency’s total budget. Germany, which devotes two-thirds of its space budget to ESA, contributes about 19.5 percent of ESA’s annual budget.
still is facing a delicate transition as it slowly reduces its work force from the current 2,500 – far more than even ESA – by relying on retirement, rather than layoffs. To keep its work force occupied, CNES has begun proposing that ESA and other European agencies hire CNES expertise. It is a policy that d’Escatha regularly promotes as a way of eliminating overlap in Europe’s existing capabilities rather than creating new ones.
While that policy has raised concern among some other ESA members it is typical of the aggressive way that d’Escatha has gotten control of his agency to ensure that its future is as bright as its past.
David M. Drucker
Investor, Entrepreneur, Visionary
One of the big success stories
in recent years has been the strong consumer demand for Colorado-based WildBlue Communications Inc.’s two-way, satellite-based, broadband Internet service. The company’s service took off almost as soon as it was available, with demand at times outstripping the supply of the receiving equipment needed to make it work.
Now, thanks to WildBlue and competitors like Hughes Network Systems, a rural population estimated to be as large as 10 million to 15 million consumers has the opportunity to gain access to the same high-speed Internet services available in urban areas.
Much of the recent success has to be credited to people like Tom Moore, the company’s co-founder;
David Leonard, who has been WildBlue’s
chief executive since September 2005;
and Mark Dankburg,
chief executive of Viasat, a key supplier of the ground equipment that gives consumers access to the satellite service. Through their efforts the equipment shortages were addressed and the company is again off and running.
But for our money, WildBlue owes its success to David Drucker, a true satellite communications visionary who saw a market that was not adequately being served and put his own money up to get WildBlue started.
It was not the first time.
also is a co-founder of direct-to-home satellite television giant EchoS
and also the founder and chief executive
of @contact Constellation, which is a Ka-band licensee in the Teledesic Band. The company also owns and operates a spaceport that offers
Internet connectivity via Ka-, Ku- and C-b
and to Alaska and South America from its location in Sedalia, Colo.
also owns and operates television stations throughout Alaska, Washington state
Mary Ann Elliott
Chairman, Arrowhead Global Solutions
Two out of three formerly small businesses that made their mark brokering commercial satellite capacity for Pentagon customers have been acquired in recent years. Arrowhead was purchased by the private-equity firm CapRock earlier this year;
Spacelink International was
bought in 2004 by Engineered Support Systems Inc., which in turn was gobbled up by DRS Technologies in early 2006. Now rumor has it that the last of these independent brokers – Artel Inc. – will announce any day now that it has been snatched up.
Probably none of this consolidation activity would have happened if not for the efforts of Mary Ann Elliott, a tough, resilient businesswoman who rose from very humble beginnings. A dropout who was married at 14 and widowed 10 years later, Elliott got her high school equivalency degree, and worked a variety of jobs before becoming intrigued with the communications business. After convincing the
chief executive of Motorola to hire her for a sales job, she taught herself the business – and the technology.
She gradually moved into satellite communications at companies like GTE before founding Arrowhead as a Native American-owned small business in 1991. The company got its big break in 2001 when it was selected, along with Artel and Spacelink, to arrange commercial satellite solutions for Pentagon customers under the Defense Information Systems Agency’s 10-year, $2 billion, Defense Satellite Transmission Services-Global (DSTS-G) program.
The DSTS-G contractors do
not build or operate satellites; instead, they operate as independent brokers, cherry picking from available commercial transponders, services and systems to create
solutions that meet the customer’s needs at a given point in time, often on short notice
Elliott was instrumental in getting the program established as a small business set-aside, and subsequently fought off the big guys – large satellite operators and space-system integrators – that were eager to cut out the middleman and deal directly with the Pentagon. Although Artel and Spacelink were in the same boat as Arrowhead, Elliott is generally recognized for having led the charge on the group’s behalf.
The DSTS-G program was structured with a three-year base period and seven
one-year options. Pressure from companies like Boeing and satellite operator Americom forced the Defense Department to study various alternatives, the adoption of which could have led to the program’s cancellation at the end of any option year. The most recent such study, ordered by Congress and released in June 2006, confirmed the findings of earlier reviews: that the DSTS-G vehicle still provided the best overall deal for the Pentagon. When the contracts came up for renewal earlier this year, their continuation was a foregone conclusion. In fact, the program is being expanded.
In the meantime, the original DST
S-G contractors got bigger and bigger and – given the Pentagon’s burgeoning demand for commercial satellite capacity – became prime acquisition targets for even bigger companies. The irony is that none of them today would qualify for the program – they have been grandfathered in as DSTS-G providers – that became their ticket to success. All three companies owe much of their prosperity to Mary Ann Elliott.
NASA associate administrator for space operations
really can get moving on the hardware it needs to return to the Moon, it must first retire the space shuttle and the $4 billion-plus spent annually to operate the high-maintenance system. With Space Shuttle Endeavour back home after a two-week mission marked by another foam scare, NASA has just three years and 14 more flights to finish constructing the international space station and refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope.
As ambitious as the schedule might sound in light of the weather delays and technical setbacks that have confronted the shuttle program since a less-than-perfect return to flight in mid-2005, NASA had been planning to pack 28 shuttle flights into the time remaining until the agency’s current human spaceflight chief, Bill Gerstenmaier, cut the manifest back to a more manageable 18 missions.
also deserves credit for surfacing the shuttle program’s previously hidden closeout cost, which his predecessors had underestimated by a couple billion dollars, unwittingly undermining the agency’s pledge to field the shuttle’s successor by 2014 without having to cut back on science and aeronautics spending. Gerstenmaier’s higher projection for what the last few years of shuttle operations
likely will cost was a bitter pill to swallow, but necessary medicine for an agency serious about embarking on the next era of human space exploration.
An engineer’s engineer, Gerstenmaier has not sugarcoated what it will take to transition people, facilities and equipment from the shuttle era to the agency’s new exploration-driven programs. As the NASA official in charge of that transition, he has been candid with U.S. lawmakers and other stakeholders that the challenges ahead are many and not everyone who works on the shuttle today will be assured a job tomorrow.
also has proven himself to be one of NASA’s most capable spokesmen for explaining how the work being done on shuttle and station is laying important ground for exploration. He has been a strong proponent for using commercial cargo delivery systems for the space station if and when they become available and has been working to make it easier for new launch vehicles to qualify to carry NASA payloads to orbit.
He is tough, honest and an unquestionably strong leader.
Former Hill staffer and ORS advocate
In the last year, Josh Hartman, who was a staffer specializing in space programs and activities with the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, saw
the party for which he worked
go from the majority to the minority on both sides of Capitol Hill. Yet he remains a go-to guy, particularly on matters pertaining to operationally responsive space (ORS), a philosophy for military space operations and acquisition that – despite its potential – has struggled to maintain a foothold within the Pentagon bureaucracy.
One could point out, correctly, that it is hard not to make a difference on appropriations, but Hartman, who previously served on the House Armed Services Committee, is more than just a bean counter.
He has been Capitol Hill’s strongest advocate for ORS over the last couple of years and is credited by many with playing a key role in convincing
the U.S. Air Force
$87 million for that purpose in its 2008 budget request. Congress does not write budget requests, of course, but lawmakers consistently
added money to the Air Force budget for operationally responsive space in recent years. Hartman pushed hard for that money, and apparently
the Air Force finally got the message, creating an ORS office and a separate budget line for ORS with $400 million in funding over the next six years.
The 2007 Air Force budget for the ORS approach to developing new ways to support the emerging needs of military commanders for such things as quick response satellites and launchers is $35.4 million. The recently passed House version of the 2008 defense appropriations bill includes $107 million for those programs, or $20 million more than the service requested.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department is establishing a joint program office for ORS following direction in the 2007 Defense Authorization Act. Hartman largely was responsible for the inclusion of that language in the bill, which was written when he was on the armed services panel.
Hartman’s influence obviously is not limited to ORS – he is a big player across the portfolio of Air Force satellite and launcher programs. But it is in this emergent category of space activity that he has had his most pronounced impact in the last year.
And his playing field has just expanded significantly, with his new job as senior aide to John Young, acting undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Vice President, Exploration
On Aug. 31, 2006, Lockheed Martin Space Systems surprised many industry odds makers when it beat out the combined team of Boeing and Northrop Grumman to win a nearly $4 billion contract to build the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. Afterall, Lockheed Martin’s role in manned spaceflight was not nearly as
large as that of
rival Boeing, and the company had appeared to stumble early on when it unveiled a winged design only to have NASA announce that what it really wanted was a capsule.
But to insiders privy to the details of Lockheed Martin’s proposal, the choice was clear: the company had come up with the better technical solution and at a lower cost.
The Lockheed Martin executive calling the plays on the company’s come-from-behind victory was John Karas, a whip-smart, straight-talking manager who had overseen the development of the Atlas 5 rocket for the U.S. Air Force’s Evolved Expendable
Launch Vehicle program, and turned that vehicle into the Air Force’s space launch workhorse.
regarded highly among spaceflight engineers in industry and government for his considerable technical ability and highly effective managerial skills. He also is known for his ability to articulate highly technical issues in an extremely effective manner. That made him effective with NASA and also the public.
During the competition to win Orion,
made several high-profile visits to the communities where the nation’s new space vehicle would be built to speak to local leaders and their representatives in Washington.
The Orion win gave Lockheed Martin a prized early role in NASA’s new exploration program and diversified the company’s space portfolio beyond its long-standing dominance of the agency’s planetary programs.
Thanks to his leadership, it will be a Lockheed Martin spacecraft that transports future NASA astronauts beyond Earth orbit.
When Lockheed Martin announced in September 2006, that it was selling its stake in International Launch Services ( ), the company it co-founded to market commercial launch services using Russia’s Proton rocket, uncertainty fell over the satellite industry.
Lockheed Martin sold its stake to Space Transport Inc., a mysterious company registered in the British Virgin Islands and led by Mario Lemme, an ILS board member and German national who spends most of his time in Russia. Lemme
has served as a key intermediary between ILS’s U.S. and Russian partners since the company’s inception in the early to mid-1990s. The Russian ILS partners are the country’s flagship space companies: Proton builder Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, and Rocket Space Corporation Energia.
Lockheed Martin’s exit came amid moves by Russian President Vladimir Putin to consolidate his control over the country’s space industry and growing uncertainty over the direction of U.S.-Russian relations. The situation created anxiety in the commercial satellite industry about ILS’s long-term viability and reliability as a business partner.
new president, Frank McKenna, with Lemme’s backing, moved quickly to reassure the industry that the company was not going anywhere, had solid commitments from its Russian partners for Proton vehicles and that Lockheed Martin’s seemingly abrupt departure would not affect ILS’s export-related dealings with the U.S. Department of State.
In June, ILS announced that it had booked more than $1 billion in new Proton launch orders during 2007, including a landmark five-satellite launch deal with SES of Europe, the world’s second largest satellite-fleet operator. Since then ILS even has managed to wrest a contract away from its former corporate parent to launch the 4 F3 satellite next spring.
Granted, ILS’s success during 2007, has been aided significantly by factors beyond the company’s control: a launch capacity shortage due to a spike in demand and the Jan. 30 on-pad failure of a Sea Launch rocket that damaged the company’s floating launch platform. Sea Launch, one of the three global main providers of commercial geostationary launch services – ILS and Europe’s being the others – originally hoped to launch five to six satellites this year but is not expected to get back into action until at least October.
But ILS never would have
been in position to take advantage of the situation had it not been for McKenna and Lemme, who were able to reassure customers and engineer a smooth transition to a company with no major U.S. equity partner. As the president and the public face of ILS, McKenna gets the honors, but it’s probably safe to say he could not have done it without Lemme.
Undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force
On every list of this type there are bound to be one or two selections that generate some controversy.
Ronald Sega, who is set to leave his job next month
as undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force and the executive agent for space, likely is one of these.
Sega, a former Air Force pilot, NASA astronaut and director of defense research and engineering (DDR&E), took the job in 2005, at a time when expectations were low.
The service was wracked with acquisition problems
and the space responsibilities had been scaled back both for the undersecretary position and for the service in general. His claim to fame as DDR&E had been
the National Aerospace Initiative, a bid to coordinate and focus Pentagon research in areas such as hypersonic propulsion and space access – an effort that never found its wings.
As Air Force undersecretary, Sega hung his legacy primarily on the so-called back-to-basics acquisition strategy for space systems. The idea is to avoid the technical snags and resulting cost overruns and delays that have plagued military space programs for the past decade. Back-to-basics entails a block approach to system development and deployment in which new capabilities and technologies are introduced as they become sufficiently mature. For systems involving multiple satellites – a category that applies to most military space programs – this means capabilities are improved with successive satellites or blocks of satellites. The approach has its critics, some of whom argue that its biggest effect will be to dumb down U.S. military space capabilities. Others say going back to basics is not exactly rocket science or question whether it really is going to make a difference.
It will be years before anyone can tell whether back to basics has righted the space acquisition ship. But industry officials say it already has had a major impact on two of the Air Force’s biggest space development programs – the Transformational Satellite Communications System (T-Sat) and GPS 3 satellite navigation constellation.
Under the T-Sat program, for example, the Air Force has decoupled programmatic and technology development milestones, so that one is not held hostage to the other. Meanwhile, the Air Force is investing separately in T-Sat technologies so that they can be incorporated into the program once they are proven.
Both the T-Sat and GPS 3 contracts, slated for award this year, will be structured with on-ramps and off-ramps at key junctures so that new technologies can be added or left off without disrupting the rest of the program. Numerous space programs in recent years have been delayed by technology-development snags in one area or another.
The industry officials, both at the prime and subcontracting levels, say the approach has increased the chances of success on T-Sat and GPS 3. Even discounting the natural tendency of contractors to be hopeful, especially on programs that still have skeptics both inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, Sega has at the very least shaped two of the biggest space procurements that the military will undertake for years. That’s having an impact.
Throw in Sega’s efforts to get subcontractors more involved in the dialogue over how best to manage the U.S. space industrial base, and for his advocacy of operationally responsive space, which now has its own program office in New Mexico, and Sega gets the nod as one of our top 10 who unquestionably made a difference in the last year.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Director, Hayden Planetarium
For years people in the space industry have longed for a national figure who could bring as much positive attention to the wonders of space exploration as Carl Sagan did throughout his career.
Now we have one, though he is well on his way to becoming an international figure as Time magazine acknowledged when it named him this past year to its list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Through public appearances, television, radio, magazine articles and books, Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium, has become a forceful, entertaining and effective spokesman for all aspects of space science. He is a scientist and a champion of science who finds glory in all aspects of exploration, from the Hubble Space Telescope to NASA’s plans for new astronaut missions to the Moon and beyond.
And it’s a good thing for NASA that this media-savvy astrophysicist is such a strong supporter of its plan to return to the Moon. Tyson reached millions of readers recently with a Parade magazine article titled simply enough “Why America Needs to Explore Space,” and continues to perfect his role as a popularizer of all things space as host of the PBS series “Nova Science Now.”
Lauded as one of the hippest astrophysicists around, Tyson has a great common touch. His work with the “Nova Science Now” program has included a number of engaging interviews – actually conversations – with everyday people in his New York City neighborhood. He is not only doing more than his fair share to help shape a popular public opinion of space, he is also a member of the NASA Advisory Council dispensing advice to the U.S. space agency.
His professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies and the structure of the Milky Way. His latest book is the playful and informative “Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Qunadaries,” which has been on the New York Times bestseller list. His autobiography “The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist,” should be mandatory reading in U.S. schools.
He is a force that cannot be ignored, as charming and effective a spokesman as anyone could hope for. And here’s hoping he keeps on making a difference.
Chairman, Science Program Review Team
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency’s space science program has been one of the world’s most productive, but also one of the most cash-strapped. The program has achieved its successes despite a budget that has lost by some estimates as much as 20 percent of its buying power over the course of the last two decades.
Mindful that the situation is not likely to change any time soon, the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2006 appointed a panel of outside experts to look at the space science program, which has an annual budget of about 400 million euros ($539
million), and determine whether it was being correctly managed and also recommend ways to get the most out of the limited funds at its disposal.
Led by Reinder van Duinen, the Science Program Review Team was given carte blanche to look everywhere
and propose anything it wanted, without limit.
Van Duinen, a former president of the European Science Foundation and former chief executive of Fokker BV’s space division, is credited with setting the program on a new course that gave ESA’s space science manager sufficient confidence in March to solicit bids for two new space science missions.
Van Duinen did a number of important things;
perhaps one of the most significant was a decision to stay away from budgetary politics. While many ESA scientists have complained legitimately that too much money has gone into the less-productive human spaceflight budgets, ignoring the science program’s numerous successes over the years, van Duinen wisely accepted the notion that the budgetary situation for space science is a given. Rather than get the review team into a political debate over which they had no influence, van Duinen chose instead to take the budget situation as a given and limit
the team’s work to examining how well ESA’s science program had fully adapted itself to that reality.
The recommendations were sweeping. They
reducing the budget for mission extensions – successful satellites that keep operating beyond their originally scheduled retirement dates – setting aside 2.5 percent of the science budget for technology development to avoid cost overruns and other surprises late in the development phase; and increasing the amount of international collaboration.
The final report the team produced in March concluded that the reality of static budgets should force the agency to manage its science efforts differently or risk losing the support of a new generation of space scientists.
The report urged ESA’s science managers
to find immediate savings of at least 200 million euros and they did.
ESA Science Director David Southwood said in March that the ideas generated by the Science Program Review Team helped shape the cost-cutting effort by giving him the impetus to cut things such as extended missions.
Someone in China
While no one outside of China (and likely few within) seems to know who gave the go-ahead, t
he Jan. 11 test in which China destroyed one of its own aging weather satellites with a land-launched missile, coming on the heels of China’s alleged illumination of a U.S. satellite with a ground-based laser, conveyed in no uncertain terms the message that space assets are vulnerable to hostile actions.
This is not exactly a revelation, of course – the U.S. military has for years been making the point that its satellites need to be protected. Moreover, China did not do anything that hasn’t been done before: Russia and the United States both tested anti-satellite (A-Sat) weapons during the Cold War, and
the Pentagon also has zapped one of its own satellites with a ground-based laser.
But China’s obliteration of the Fengyun-
1C satellite was the first overtly destructive anti-satellite test in two decades. Its timing also coincided
with the growing
awareness of the menace posed by space debris, broad recognition of the U.S. military’s growing reliance on space systems and increasing concerns about Beijing’s global military ambitions and space capabilities.
Other than the predictable flurry of Washington policy forums, debates and congressional press releases that followed the test, its immediate impact is unclear: The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has given no indication that that it intends to rewrite the military space policy released late last year in light of China’s actions and in any case that document presumably was written with the full range of threats – ground-based missiles almost certainly being among them – in mind. Moreover, it is probably safe to say that the administration had a pretty good idea the test was coming; in fact, U.S. government officials subsequently said China had launched missiles at the target satellite at least twice before scoring a direct hit.
But the test unquestionably raised awareness of the satellite-vulnerability issue outside the space community in general and on Capitol Hill in particular. It has lent credibility to those who have long been warning about the threat posed by China and its global ambitions, lent new priority status and budgetary protection to space-control programs and likely will be factored prominently into the next update of military space policy. It also provides ammunition for those who have been calling for a set of international gentleman’s rules governing space activity.
In part because of the opacity of China’s Communist government, and the glaring disconnect between Beijing’s actions and its rhetoric in favor of space cooperation and against space weapons, some U.S. analysts initially surmised that the test might have been carried out without the specific approval of President HuJintao. They have since backed away from this notion, however, suggesting Hu did approve the test, if not the precise timing, and that perhaps that it was only China’s foreign ministry that didn’t have a clue. Thus, in addition to the 10 space professionals we honor this year, China is added to
our list. While it is for less-than-admirable actions, there can be little doubt that China’s A-Sat test and the man who runs the country – made a big difference in shaping one of the big space issues of the year.