Blue Origin creates advisory board

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WASHINGTON — Blue Origin is establishing a board of advisors, whose members include a former Air Force secretary and former NASA center directors, to guide the company on its long-term vision of space development.

The company announced Dec. 1 it was establishing the seven-person board of advisors that will provide “strategic counsel on the company’s mission to radically reduce the cost of access to space and the utilization of in-space resources,” according to a company statement.

“This board will help us drive our mission forward, provide us guidance on our key initiatives and serve as strategic advisors to our leadership team,” Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin, said in the statement.

Most of the members of the board are also former government officials. They include Heather Wilson, former secretary of the Air Force; Kari A. Bingen, former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security; and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Sue Mashiko, former deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office. Charles Elachi, the former director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Todd May, former director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, are also on the board.

The makeup of the board suggests they may assist Blue Origin in winning more government business. Blue Origin proposed its New Glenn launch vehicle for the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 competition, but lost to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. Blue Origin is one of three companies with NASA Human Landing System (HLS) awards to develop crewed lunar landers for the agency’s Artemis program, but NASA is unlikely to win the full funding it sought for HLS in its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal needed to keep that program on schedule.

Blue Origin did not disclose why they selected these individuals to serve on the advisory board. A company source, speaking on background, said it selected people “best aligned with our values as a company, provided insights and perspectives that we need, and represented the diversity of our industry.”

The company also didn’t disclose details of how the board will work. A company source said that there will be regular meetings of the board with Blue Origin leadership as well as additional conversations as needed.

The full roster of the advisory board is:

  • The Hon. Kari A. Bingen: former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security
  • Dr. Charles Elachi: former Director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Dr. Dan Hastings: Aeronautics and Astronautics Department Head, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and former Chief Scientist, U.S. Air Force
  • Maj. Gen. Sue Mashiko, USAF (Ret.): former Deputy Director, National Reconnaissance Office
  • Todd May: Senior Vice President, Space and Mission Solutions, KBR; and former Director, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Bill Smith: former President, Primex Technologies Aerospace Division
  • The Hon. Heather Wilson: President, University of Texas at El Paso; former Secretary of the U.S. Air Force; and former Member, U.S. House of Representatives