Rotary Gala to honor heroes of space

April 12th, 2019

Mr. David Thompson, National Space Trophy Recipient (Orbital ATK Photo)

The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation will recognize people in the space industry at their annual space awards gala on Friday, April 26, at the Downtown Houston Hyatt Regency.

The evening begins with a reception at 6 p.m., and the program starts at 7 p.m. with a welcome by RNASA Chairman Rodolfo Gonzalez. The public is invited to attend.

The RNASA Foundation was formed by the Space Center Rotary Club in 1985, to publicly recognize the unsung heroes of America’s space program alongside the more well-known achievers. This year, the RNASA Foundation will present the 2019 National Space Trophy, to, retired Orbital ATK President and CEO of David W. Thompson.

Former NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson will present the prestigious award to Thompson. Special guest speakers will include William Shatner, best known for his role as Capt. James Kirk, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, former Rotary International President Ron Burton and NASA Spokesperson Bob Jacobs.

Morgan Brennan, co-host of CNBC’s Squawk Alley, will serve as emcee and Gemini/Apollo astronaut Lt. Gen. Thomas Stafford, USAF (Ret.), will present an Omega watch to Thompson at the closing of the program.

The National Space Trophy honoree is selected each year by the RNASA Foundation’s Board of Advisors. This board represents a Who’s Who of government and corporate aerospace leaders, including former Trophy and Space Communicator Award recipients.

In addition to the National Space Trophy, stellar awards will be presented to people in early career, mid career, late career, and team categories. RNASA Chairman Rodolfo González said, “We received an impressive 140 stellar nominations this year, 36 government and 104 corporate.”

The nominations came from Aerie Aerospace, Aerojet Rocketdyne, ARES Corporation, The Boeing Company, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI, Inc., Collins Aerospace, Jacobs, KBRWyle, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, MRI Technologies, Glenn Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, Langley Research Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, Stennis Space Center, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, Oceaneering Space Systems, Raytheon Company, SAIC, Sierra Nevada Corporation, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and the U.S. Air Force.

Of all the nominations, only a few Stellar awards are given, and are announced the evening of the banquet. The winners will receive engraved marble trophies generously sponsored by Northrop Grumman. The trophies will be presented by NASA Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Dr. Shannon Walker.

The RNASA Stellar Awards Evaluation Panel ranks the nominations received from industry and government in all categories, based on whose accomplishments hold the greatest promise for furthering activities in space and the extent to which the nominee meets the goal of recognizing “unsung heroes.” The 2019 Stellar judges are Michael Coats, Arnold Aldrich, Eileen Collins and Kevin Chilton.

The Stellar Award nominees and team representatives will enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Johnson Space Center and a luncheon where all are recognized with mounted certificates and a Fisher Space Pen donated by the company. The Fisher Space Pen was originally carried by the astronauts of the Apollo moon missions and is still used on manned space flights to this day. They are precision assembled, hand tested, and guaranteed to perform underwater, at any angle including upside down, in extreme temperatures, and of course in zero gravity. The keynote speaker at the luncheon will be astronaut Scott Tingle.

The Stellar Awards Committee Chairman Jennifer Devolites, RNASA Foundation Chairman Rodolfo González, RNASA Committee member Duane Ross, and Space Center Rotary Club President Nancy Anderson will also address the nominees at the Stellar Awards luncheon.

Following the welcome will be a presentation of the colors by Clear Brook High School Army JROTC, accompanied with the national anthem sung by the Clear Creek High School Chamber Singers Solo Quartet. Rev. Tracye Ruffin, retired hospice chaplain, Disciples of Christ-Christian Church will provide the invocation. After dinner, the awards ceremony will kick off with a multimedia show summarizing the year’s space events produced by Space City Films.

The RNASA Foundation invites members of the public and the aerospace community to attend the black-tie event. Individual tickets are $300, and corporate tables range from $2,500 to $5,500. Please use http://www.rnasa.org/tables.html to reserve your table for the RNASA Banquet, and for information about sponsorships and tickets. To reserve a hotel room, use http://www.rnasa.org/houston.html at the Houston Hyatt Regency.

Retired CEO of Orbital ATK named Space Trophy recipient

February 1st, 2019

David W. Thompson will receive the 2019 National Space Trophy.

The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation has selected David W. Thompson, retired president and CEO of Orbital ATK, to receive the 2019 National Space Trophy. The banquet honoring him will be held Friday, April 26, at the Houston Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston.

“The RNASA Foundation is extremely excited about recognizing Mr. Thompson as the guest of honor at the 2019 RNASA Space Award Gala,” Foundation President Rodolfo Gonzalez said, going on to invited the public and the aerospace community to attend the black-tie event.

Thompson was nominated for the award by Northrop Grumman Corp. Space Systems Group President Frank Culbertson. In recommending Thompson, Culbertson cited his “four decades of outstanding leadership and pioneering innovations in the development and operation of launch vehicles and satellite systems, which have transformed scientific, exploratory, commercial and defense applications of space.”

Thompson said, “It is with great enthusiasm, and even greater humility, that I accept the 2019 National Space Trophy! My heart-felt thanks to the RNASA Board of Advisors for selecting me for this highly-regarded honor.” Thompson began his four-decade long career in space technology as a young engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978, following summer internships during college and graduate school at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Johnson Space Center and Langley Research Center.

His career as a space entrepreneur and business leader accelerated in the early 1980s when he and two Harvard Business School classmates founded Orbital Sciences Corp., a startup that focused on the development of space systems for commercial, military and scientific customers. Over the subsequent 35 years, Thompson led his company from its infancy to Fortune 500 status, reaching more than $5 billion in annual revenue and employing nearly 15,000 people in 2018.

As one of the world’s first commercial space enterprises, Orbital pioneered the investment of private capital for space systems development and manufacturing in the 1980s and 1990s. During this time, the company created a family of six new launch vehicles, including the Pegasus rocket and several missile defense vehicles, as well as an array of lower-cost satellites for both low-Earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous (GEO) applications. Thompson’s vision was that diverse customers – from traditional government agencies to new privately-owned satellite operators – would use these products, and that commercial-style business practices would reduce their costs and delivery times. The success of this strategy is reflected in the more than 1,000 rockets and satellites delivered by the company to over 50 customers since the 1980s.

Under Thompson’s leadership, Orbital expanded beyond its original business of research and manufacturing into providing space-based services in the 1990s and 2000s. More recently, the company partnered with NASA to develop the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft commercial cargo system for the International Space Station, which has conducted 12 supply missions to ISS over the past six years. And later this year the company plans to inaugurate the world’s first in-space robotic servicing and repair of GEO communications satellites, launching an exciting new form of commercial space logistics operations.

In 2014, Orbital and its long-standing industry partner, Alliant Techsystems, merged to form Orbital ATK, a larger, more diversified space and defense systems company with a broader product line, including rocket propulsion for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift vehicle as well as motors for tactical and strategic missiles. Finally, last year Northrop Grumman purchased Orbital ATK for over $9 billion, forming Northrop’s Innovation Systems business sector. The merger with Northrop is expected to generate faster growth and new products, as well as creating greater opportunities for thousands of the company’s space engineers and scientists.

Thompson earned his B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Aeronautics from Caltech, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

He is an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society and the Royal Aeronautical Society, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Astronautics.

He was AIAA’s president for the 2009-2010 year, and today serves as a member of the Boards of Trustees of Caltech, the Aerospace Corp., the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Hertz Foundation, and the Princeton University Astronomy Council. He was recently appointed to the National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group and has been honored with numerous awards including the National Medal of Technology by President George H.W. Bush, as well as Virginia’s Industrialist of the Year and High-Technology Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine.

Visit www.rnasa.org/tables.html to reserve a table for the RNASA Banquet and find information about sponsorships and tickets. To reserve a room at the Houston Hyatt Regency, visit www.rnasa.org/houston.html or call 713-654-1234 and request the RNASA group rate.