Jess Sponable

ess is the President and Chief Technology Officer for New Frontier Aerospace (NFA), Inc. NFA is developing high-speed point-to-point aircraft that fly to the edge of space enabling two-hour flight to everywhere. With a wide-ranging background in industry and government, Jess has extensive experience developing space, hypersonic, and reusable space launch systems and technologies. In November 2017 he left the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency where he served over two separate tours and seven years as a program manager.  He led multiple space initiatives including the experimental spaceplane, high power solar electric propulsion, autonomous robotic arm, and solar thermal propulsion programs.  With a combined budget of over $400 million and 50+ contracts, his efforts included technology maturation of satellite projects, power systems, solar cells, rocket engines, electric propulsion, and space launch.  Prior to DARPA he spent over 30 years in the United States Air Force as both a military officer and civilian.  His career supported diverse jobs ranging from Atlas launch operations at Vandenberg AFB to project management jobs developing and deploying the early Global Positioning System.  Prior to the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, he was selected as an Air Force Manned Spaceflight Engineer and trained as a Space Shuttle payload specialist, then transitioned to support development of hypersonic flight at the National Aero-Space Plane program. Starting in 1991 he served in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization managing multiple programs including the vertical take-off and landing Delta Clipper-Experimental (DC-X), which inspired many follow-on entrepreneurs.  In 1994 he transitioned to the Air Force Research Laboratory supporting NASA’s follow-on initiatives DC-XA, X-33, X-34, and related technologies.  In the Air Force he led or supported numerous projects and studies maturing hypersonic aircraft, orbit transfer vehicles, reusable space launch/military spaceplanes, and prompt global strike systems.  Jess also spent several years in the entrepreneurial space launch sector working for Universal Space Lines and Pete Conrad, the Apollo 12 and Skylab commander.  He has served on numerous national space transportation studies and panels.  He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in physics and holds advanced degrees in Astronautical Engineering and Systems Management.  He is a graduate of the Defense Systems Management College. 

 

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