Maser Leaves SpaceX To Lead Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne

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Maser Leaves SpaceX To Lead Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
By JEREMY SINGER and BRIAN BERGER
Space News Staff Writers
posted: 07 December 2006
01:59 pm ET

BOSTON AND WASHINGTON — Jim Maser is leaving rocket start- up Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) to lead Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, according to industry officials.

Maser will replace Byron Wood as the president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the Canoga Park, Calif.-based manufacturer of rocket propulsion systems. A source familiar with the move said Maser starts his new job Dec. 4.

Maser spent seven years at Sea Launch LLC, leading the company for four and a half years before joining SpaceX in April as its president and chief operating officer. Maser’s departure comes as SpaceX is preparing for the second launch of its Falcon 1 rocket, which failed in its maiden flight March 24.

Elon Musk, founder and chief executive officer of El Segundo, Calif.-based SpaceX, said that he was disappointed to see Maser depart so soon after he had been hired, but commented that “you can’t bat a thousand on these things.”

Musk said Maser had informed him that he was leaving because of the opportunity to run a larger company, and that his departure was not intended as a no-confidence vote on the company’s upcoming launches.

Musk said that he has no immediate plans to replace Maser, but will look in the future for a new president. Much of Maser’s workload will be handled by Brian Bjelde, the company’s Falcon 1 product manager, and John Insprucker, who was assigned on Nov. 27 to oversee the Falcon 9 program.

Insprucker retired from the Air Force as a colonel about a year ago, after serving as the program director for the service’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle effort, which launches most of the military’s satellites.

Musk said that he had recently hired Insprucker on a part-time basis, but has since put him in charge of the Falcon 9 program on a full-time basis.

Insprucker will focus on overseeing the development of the Falcon 9 rocket, and will not be involved with sales or be used otherwise to lobby the Air Force, Musk said.

The Falcon 9 is envisioned as a much larger rocket than the Falcon 1 that SpaceX is working on now.

The Falcon 1 is a two-stage rocket fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene. It has a payload capacity of 570 kilograms to low Earth orbit, according to the company’s Web site. The Falcon 1 failed during the initial phase of its first launch attempt. A second Falcon 1 launch is tentatively scheduled for January.

The Falcon 9 would be a much larger 2-stage version initially capable of lifting payloads as large as 9,800 kilograms to low Earth orbit, according to the SpaceX Web site.