New CSF chairwoman focused on regulatory issues and selecting next president

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WASHINGTON — The new board chair of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) says her initial priorities will be finding a new president for the organization and dealing with a range of regulatory issues affecting the organization’s member companies.

The CSF announced Oct. 2 that its members selected Audrey Powers, vice president of legal and compliance at Blue Origin, as its new chairwoman. She succeeds Taber MacCallum, co-founder of space tourism company Space Perspective, who completed his two-year term as chair of the CSF board.

In an Oct. 2 interview, Powers said that Eric Stallmer, president of CSF, contacted her a few weeks earlier and told her she was being considered by board members to be chair. “That my colleagues in this industry support me and trust me to hold this position is a real honor,” she said.

One of her first tasks as board chairwoman will be to hire a successor to Stallmer, who announced in September he would be resigning from CSF at the end of October to join Voyager Space Holdings, a firm that is acquiring other space companies.

“We’ve got some big shoes to fill there,” she said. A search committee is currently looking for a replacement, with some “really promising” candidates having already applied for the job. “We want to move through this as efficiently as possible,” but said the CSF hasn’t set a firm deadline for either accepting applicants or selecting a new president. The organization has planned for a transition period after Stallmer’s departure, using other staff and board members to help run the organization until the board hires a successor.

Powers
Audrey Powers, Blue Origin vice president and new chairwoman of the CSF. Credit: CSF

Powers said the organization has several criteria for its new president, from experience running organizations to ability to do outreach with policy stakeholders and dealing with many of the regulatory issues facing member companies. She also said CSF is looking for “a person who is really great at bridge-building given the diversity of our membership.”

CSF has seen that membership grow in recent years, with more than 85 companies and organizations now affiliated with it. “I do see us trying to continue to grow our membership,” she said, saying that the diversity of members, from launch companies to spaceports to universities, has benefited the organization.

Another looming issue for the organization is long-awaited reforms to commercial launch regulations, something that has been a key issue for both the CSF and for Powers in her role at Blue Origin. The Federal Aviation Administration has been working on “streamlined” launch and reentry regulations, which agency officials said at a Sept. 14 meeting of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee should be ready soon.

Those regulations, Powers said, could be released any day. The final step in the development of the regulations is a review by the Office of Management and Budget that, according to a website maintained by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, was completed Sept. 30. “It really is any moment now,” she said.

The CSF, as well as others in the launch industry, have focused considerable attention on that rulemaking process, including criticism of the draft rule published by the FAA in the spring of 2019. “It’s arguably one of the most important rulemaking undertakings that has happened in this industry in recent decades,” she said. “It touches so many areas of the industry.”

“I’m really excited to have this opportunity to represent the industry and our membership in this way,” Powers said of becoming chairwoman of CSF. “It’s an exciting time to be in this industry.”

In addition to Powers, the CSF selected Richard DalBello of Virgin Galactic as vice chair and Richard Pruss of BRPH as treasurer. Other board officers include MacCallum, Tim Hughes of SpaceX, Caryn Schenewerk of Relativity Space and Jim Kuzma of Space Florida.