Isakowitz to succeed Austin as Aerospace Corp. president and CEO

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WASHINGTON — Steve Isakowitz is stepping down as president of  Virgin Galactic to become the next president and CEO of the Aerospace Corporation, the nonprofit engineering think tank that works hand in glove with the U.S. Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office on military space programs.

Steve Isakowitz will become president of the Aerospace Corporation on Aug. 1 and assume the title of CEO on Oct. 1 upon the retirement of Wanda Austin. Credit: The Aerospace Corp.
Steve Isakowitz

Isakowitz’s selection follows a year-long search by the Aerospace Corp.’s board of trustees to find a successor to Wanda Austin, who started her career at the El Segundo, California, think tank in 1979 and has served as president and CEO since  2008. Isakowitz will initially join the Aerospace Corp. as president Aug. 1 and assume the CEO title upon Austin’s retirement Oct. 1.

Prior to joining Virgin Galactic in 2011 to serve as chief technology officer of Richard Branson’s suborbital spaceplane venture, Isakowitz made a name for himself in Washington as a sharp, detail-oriented budget wonk. In 2002, the MIT-minted aerospace engineer went from shaping NASA’s annual budget requests as the science and space programs branch chief at the White House Office of Management and Budget to testifying before Congress as NASA’s comptroller.

He did a stint as deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate before leaving the space agency for a hush-hush stint in the intelligence community before resurfacing in 2007 as the U.S. Department of Energy’s chief financial officer.

Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, has already begun its search for Isakowitz’s replacement. George Whitesides, the CEO of the Southern California venture, said in a June 28 statement that he’s asked Tim Buzza, program director of Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne launch services business unit, to lead LauncherOne in Isakowitz’s absence.

“We are deeply proud of Steve and wish him the best as he embarks on this important new mission leading The Aerospace Corporation,” Whitesides said. “I am sure he will serve our nation well, as he has many times in the past, contributing his crucial perspectives to the dynamic environment of national security and civil space.”