Spaceflight Sherpa-LTC
Spaceflight has developed a line of Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles, including the Sherpa-LTC with chemical propulsion: Credit: Spaceflight Inc.

WASHINGTON — Space transportation services provider Spaceflight Inc. has hired the former president of International Launch Services as its new chief executive.

Spaceflight announced Feb. 2 that Tiphaine Louradour has joined the company as chief executive to help the company expand its business providing rideshare launch services for smallsats, including through its Sherpa line of orbital transfer vehicles (OTVs).

“My goal in leading this organization is to build on its ground-breaking achievements and expand the launch and on-orbit service offerings beyond LEO,” Louradour said in a statement. “I’m very much looking forward to working with the team, as well as its customers and partners, to continue to evolve Spaceflight and especially its Sherpa OTV program, into its next phase of growth.”

Spaceflight has flown several Sherpa vehicles, including its first with a chemical propulsion system, Sherpa-LTC2, last fall. The company is developing a version called Sherpa-ES with more powerful chemical propulsion to enable transport throughout cislunar space.

Louradour succeeds Curt Blake, who had been president and chief executive of the company since 2013. “I’ve long been impressed with Tiphaine and the timing is ideal to make a change,” he said in the statement. “I couldn’t be more excited about the road ahead for Spaceflight.”

After supporting the transition, Blake will consult for the space group at Mitsui and Co., a Japanese company that, with Yamasa Co., acquired Spaceflight Inc. in 2020. He will also provide legal and strategic counsel for other space companies, Spaceflight said.

The announcement came two days after ILS announced that Louradour was leaving the company after nearly three years as president. The company, headquartered in Northern Virginia, did not disclose the reason for her departure.

ILS, established in the 1990s as a joint venture of Lockheed Martin, Khrunichev and Energia to jointly market the Atlas and Proton rockets commercially, had over time become a Khrunichev-owned company focused on selling Proton and Angara launches to Western customers. Changes in the market, including a shift away from geostationary communications satellites and the introduction of new vehicles, sharply reduced demand for those rockets.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago, it became effectively impossible to offer Russian vehicles to Western companies. “Being a U.S. company, we have to, and we do, remain fully compliant with all U.S. laws and regulations regarding import and export. We are also compliant with the State Department licensing requirements,” Louradour said during a panel discussion at World Satellite Business Week in September. “Opportunities may be there, but we have to evaluate that through that filter.”

She said that, despite the geopolitical tensions, she remained hopeful ILS could reenter the market, noting that neither the American nor Russian governments had moved to halt the company’s operations. “We believe that they recognize the venture still has value in the ties and the relationships between the countries, and that it has merit and purpose to continue.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...