DENVER – Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast is taking the helm of Skycorp Inc., a California company with plans to transform space logistics in Earth orbit, cislunar orbit and on the lunar surface.
Skycorp was founded in 1998 by Dennis Wingo, an aerospace and computer engineer with multiple patents including one for extending the life of spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit. Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems purchased the patent and the intellectual property underpins the company’s Mission Extension Vehicle.
After serving as an advisor to many space companies since retiring from the Air Force in 2019, why is Kwast becoming Skycorp’s CEO?
“Because I want to be at the right place at the right time in history to do the right thing,” Kwast told SpaceNews. “As we watch this tidal wave of commercialization coming to us, Dennis is the Henry Ford of the space age.”
Kwast sees extraordinary promise in space-based solar power, asteroid mining and in-space manufacturing and assembly to help solve many of Earth’s intractable problems.
“Space is the pathway for humanity to have prosperity, health and security across cultural lines, across nation-state lines,” Kwast said. “It is how humanity expands the pie and lets everybody uplift the human condition. It is that powerful.”
Wingo shares that vision and calls Kwast “an exceptional leader” who can help the Skycorp and the United States move in that direction.
Kwast, a fighter pilot with extensive combat experience, earned an astronautical engineering degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He spent 33 years in the Air Force, led Air University and the Air Education and Training Command, and was an early advocate of the U.S. Space Force.
“Steve Kwast, as much as anyone alive, understands that the key to a prosperous future for humanity lies in space and that our company vision will contribute greatly to that end,” Wingo told SpaceNews.
A fundamental element of the auspicious future Wingo and Kwast envision is logistics and Skycorp “is going to change the cost of logistics in the space economy,” Kwast said.
Skycorp is “going to capture all of these capabilities that have been incubated in the space industrial base and put them together in a way nobody else is thinking about, systemically and holistically,” Kwast said.
For example, Skycorp’s Orbital Logistics Vehicle is designed to be launched in pieces and assembled at the International Space Station. As a result, the finished structure will not need to withstand the vibration and G forces of a rocket launch.
Kwast also points to Skycorp’s recent success in NASA and Defense Department contract awards as proof of Wingo’s genius and the Skycorp’s prowess.
The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit and NASA are funding space station testing of the intelligent Space Systems Interface, a USB-like cable to extend spacecraft power and communications capacity to payloads, developed by Germany’s iBoss GmbH and Skycorp.
Skycorp won the grand prize in NASA’s 2021 Centennial Challenge “for its innovative system of power cells and intelligent interfaces for storing and distributing power through the lunar month’s extreme light and temperature changes,” according to a NASA news release.
In the ongoing Centennial prize competition, the Watts on the Moon Challenge, Skycorp was one of seven teams that were awarded $200,000 apiece and selected to compete in the second round to develop and test their power transmission and energy storage technologies.
“Skycorp has novel ideas about how to bring energy to the logistics of lunar operations,” Kwast said.