Road to Spaceport America. Credit — Spaceport America

Top 6 women of the NewSpace

Last year, 11 out of 19 space launches in the USA (58%), and out of 81 in the world (13.5%), were conducted by or thanks to the companies led by women. This year corresponding ratio is even higher: on September 1, 2014, 11 out of 17 space launches in the USA (65%), and out of 52 in the world (21%), have been performed by women-led companies. Moreover, a woman wants to improve this statistics by entering the market with a small-class launcher currently under development, a woman contributed to the emergence of suborbital human spaceflight industry, and two women are responsible for getting ground facilities ready for suborbital spaceflight era that will come about in the near future.

Who are they, these leaders of NewSpace who succeeded in the traditionally men’s industry and among things that common vision believe only men are dreaming about? No ranking, because all heroes of this article are the first and incomparable…

Marillyn Hewson – Chairman, President and CEO, Lockheed Martin

Marillyn Hewson

Marillyn Hewson earned her Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and her Master of Arts degree in economics from The University of Alabama. She also attended the Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School executive development programs.

Before serving the Chairman, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin, she held a variety of increasingly responsible executive positions with the Corporation, including President and Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin’s Electronic Systems business area. In her 30 years with Lockheed Martin, Ms. Hewson has been President of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration; Executive Vice President of Global Sustainment for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics; President and General Manager of Kelly Aviation Center, L.P., an affiliate of Lockheed Martin; and President of Lockheed Martin Logistics Services. She has also served in key corporate executive roles, including Senior Vice President of Corporate Shared Services; Vice President of Global Supply Chain Management; and Vice President of Corporate Internal Audit.

Ms. Hewson serves on the Board of Directors of DuPont. In September 2013, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Export Council, the principal national advisory committee on international trade. She is a member of the Board of Governors of the Aerospace Industries Association, and is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Ms. Hewson serves on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, the Board of Governors of the USO, the Board of the National Geographic Education Foundation and the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration Board of Visitors. She is also a member of The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of leading US companies.

As it is known, Lockheed Martin designs and manufactures Atlas V family of launch vehicles, which are operated by Boeing-Lockheed affiliate, United Launch Alliance (ULA). Despite pressure from SpaceX, ULA remains major contractor for the US governmental missions, and Atlas V remains its main workhorse. Also, Lockheed Martin develops many scientific spacecraft for NASA, including those for exploration of deep space and Solar System, such as the country’s leading manned spaceflight project – Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle crew module.

Orion Crew Module Set for Connection to Heat Shield

Ms. Hewson has been selected by Fortune magazine as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” for the past four years and was named 4th in 2013. She was named 21st on the Forbes “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” in 2014.

Gwynne Shotwell – President and Chief Operating Officer, SpaceX

Gwynne Shotwell

A high school cheerleader and varsity basketball player, Gwynne Shotwell received Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University. Although Ms. Shotwell originally planned to work in the automotive industry, and was enrolled in Chrysler Corporation’s training program, she did not remain in that industry.

In 1988, she began to work at the El Segundo research center of the Aerospace Corporation, and did technical work on military space research and development contracts. During ten-year tenure she worked in thermal analysis area, while “writing dozens of papers on a variety of subjects including conceptual small spacecraft design, infrared signature target modeling, space shuttle integration and reentry vehicle operational risks.”

Wanting to “build, and put spacecraft together”, in 1998 she left the Aerospace Corp. to become a director of the space systems division at Microcosm Inc., a low-cost rocket builder in El Segundo. In 2002, the year of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) foundation by Elon Musk, Ms. Gwynne Shotwell became the company’s employee No.7. Since 2008 she has been serving as its President and Chief Operating Officer.

Gwynne Shotwell at SpaceX’s Facility

As of June 2013, SpaceX has nearly $5 billion in contracts and more than 3,000 people on its payroll. Within the company Ms. Shotwell is “responsible for day-to-day operations and managing customer relationships and company growth.” As of 2014, she is listed as the 90th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes, and it seems very likely that her ranking in the list will be a way higher in few years.

Anousheh Ansari – Co-Founder and CEO, Prodea Systems; first Iranian cosmonaut

Anousheh Ansari

Anousheh Ansari was born in Mashhad, Iran. Shortly afterward she and her parents moved to Tehran. Anousheh is Muslim, she witnessed the Iranian Revolution in 1979. In 1984 she immigrated to the United States, where received Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and computer science at George Mason University, and master’s degree at George Washington University.

In 1993, she persuaded her husband, Hamid Ansari, and her brother-in-law, Amir Ansari, to co-found Telecom Technologies Inc. The company, offered a line of products that allowed for integration between existing legacy telecom networks and application-centric, next-generation networks via software switch technology, was acquired by Sonus Networks, Inc. in 2001. Anousheh Ansari became Vice President of Sonus. In 2006 she co-founded Prodea Systems, and currently serves as its Chairman and CEO.

Ansari is a member of the X-Prize Foundation’s Vision Circle, as well as its Board of Trustees. Along with her brother-in-law she made a multi-million dollar contribution to the X-Prize foundation on May 5, 2004, the 43rd anniversary of Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital spaceflight. The X-Prize was officially renamed then to the Ansari X-Prize. As it is known, that prize was won on October 4, 2004, the 47th anniversary of the first satellite, Sputnik 1, launch, by the Tier One project designed by Burt Rutan and financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, using the experimental spaceplane SpaceShipOne.

SpaceShipOne. Winning the Ansari X-Prize

Ms. Anousheh Ansari passed an interesting way prior to become a cosmonaut. She trained as a backup for Daisuke Enomoto for a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station, through Space Adventures, Ltd. On August 21, 2006, Enomoto was medically disqualified from flying the Soyuz TMA-9 mission that was due to launch the following month. The next day Ansari was elevated to the prime crew. Her contract did not allow for disclosure of the amount paid, but previous space tourists have paid in excess of $20 million.

On September 18, 2006, a few days after her 40th birthday, Ansari lifted off on the Soyuz TMA-9 mission with commander Mikhail Tyurin and flight engineer Michael Lopez-Alegria (who later, in 2012–2014, served as the President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation). Ansari landed safely aboard Soyuz TMA-8 on September 29, 2006, with Jeffrey Williams and Pavel Vinogradov. She was the fourth overall self-funded space tourist, and the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station.

Mishaal Achemimry – President and CEO, MISHAAL Aerospace

Mishaal Achemimry

Mishaal earned Bachelor of Science Degrees in Aerospace Engineering and in Applied Mathematic, and a Master of Science Degree in Aerospace Engineering, from Florida Institute of Technology. Her academic focus included experimental and analytical aerodynamics, rocket design and nuclear thermal propulsion.

Mishaal Achemimry founded MISHAAL Aerospace in 2010, relying on her professional experience and areas of expertise that include aerodynamics, wind tunnel testing, vehicle design, predictive simulation and analysis and rocket stage-separation analysis, with a strong focus on computational tool development.

MISHAAL Aerospace is positioning itself as a woman-owned aerospace company specializing in launch vehicle/rocket development for space applications. The company designs, manufactures and launches its own line of launch vehicles for clients from government, research, commercial aerospace and telecommunication industries.

On track to develop a low-cost reliable CubeSat-class launcher, Mishaal Aerospace achieved its major milestone to date on August 11, 2014, with successful static fire test of M-SV hybrid rocket motor propulsion system.

Mishaal Aerospace Tests M-SV Hybrid Propulsion

Christine Anderson – Executive Director, Spaceport America

Christine Anderson

Christine Anderson is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of Maryland, and completed the National Security Leadership Program at Johns Hopkins University and the Senior Management in Government Program at Harvard University.

Ms. Anderson retired from the United States Air Force as a civilian with 30 years’ service in 2008. In the Air Force she achieved the rank of Senior Executive Service, the civilian equivalent of the military rank of General Officer. Anderson was the founding Director of the Space Vehicles Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

She also served as the Director of the Space Technology Directorate at the Air Force Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland, and as the Director of the Military Satellite Communications Joint Program Office at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles where she directed the development, acquisition and execution of a $50 billion portfolio.

Today, Christine Anderson is responsible for the development and operation of the world’s first purpose-built, commercial spaceport — Spaceport America, New Mexico, where she serves as the CEO. With almost 73, 3.7 km spaceway, and over 340 sunny days, Spaceport America provides a supportive home for commercial space tenants and customers, such as Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Falcon 9R, and hosts numerous suborbital launches including those of UP Aerospace.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo Fly over Spaceport America

Karin Nilsdotter – CEO and Co-founder, Space Travel Alliance; CEO, Spaceport Sweden

Karin Nilsdotter

Karin Nilsdotter is a distinguished graduate of Henley Business School in the UK, where she earned her Executive MBA and was invited to present her leading research on positive psychology and employee engagement applied to a organizational knowledge.

Ms. Nilsdotter is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation, member of the board for Arctic Business Incubator and a council member for Swedish Lapland Chamber of Commerce. Previously Karin had an extensive experience in tourism industry where she held senior international management roles and board appointments, including Chairman of Kiruna Lapland Tourism and Swedish Lapland Tourism.

Karin is an initiator of Creative Space, an international pilot project for the development of new products, services and experiences using space as the platform, enabling empowerment and contributing to regional growth. She is further the licensee and curator of TEDxKiruna, which has been arranged three years in a row focusing on creating a forum for minds to meet and be inspired to new initiatives and ideas by speakers from both local and international level.

Karin Nilsdotter is also the CEO of Spaceport Sweden, pioneering initiative to establish local commercial human spaceflight industry as a platform for tourism, research and education in Sweden. The vision of Spaceport Sweden is to create a world’s leading spaceport and enable access to space for mankind, to provide a platform for cross-industry innovation and empowerment through access to space, in particular among young talents. Possible tenants for the Spaceport could be Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, Swiss Space Systems, and other.

Capitalizing on the opportunities on Earth, Karin has led the development of a space training and experience program through working with academia and industrial partnerships. The portfolio of Spaceport Sweden contains northern lights flights in partnership with Northern Light Academy, Zero-G weightlessness flights, centrifuge and G-force training, and many more inspiring projects and initiatives. In order to provide all that space-related services Karin co-founded Space Travel Alliance commercial operator in June 2014, where she serves as the CEO.

Northern Lights Seen from the International Space Station

Today, Karin Nilsdotter compares space industry to the gold rush; a myriad of companies and entrepreneurs paving new paths into the commercialization of space and adjacent terrestrial industries. But her role in the gold rush she sees in selling sticks and shovels, not prospecting for gold herself. Her ultimate goal for Kiruna as a space hub is to invigorate tourism locally, empower communities globally, and advance Sweden as an aerospace innovation leader. Someone once said that our generation was born too late to explore the earth and too early to explore the stars. But thanks to Karin and other our heroes, objects in a night sky are closer than seem.

By Viacheslav Pronskyi

Materials retrieved from LinkedIn profiles, Wikipedia, official corporate websites, and the great article: Startup Grind: Karin Nilsdotter & Spaceport Sweden