Headlines > News > Ex-astronaut joins Rocketplane

Ex-astronaut joins Rocketplane

Published by Robin on Fri Sep 9, 2005 3:14 pm
Share
More share options
Tools

By Julie Bisbee
The Oklahoman, Fri Sept 9, 2005

An Oklahoma company in pursuit of commercial space travel has hired a former astronaut to pilot its test flights and tourist trips into suborbital space.

John Herrington, an astronaut on Space Shuttle Endeavour, joined Rocketplane Limited Inc. this week after retiring from the U.S. Navy and giving up his assignment at NASA. He had been assigned to NASA since 1996.

“He’s the perfect choice at the perfect time,” said David Urie, vice president and program manager at Rocketplane. “He worked as a test pilot in his Navy service and has been an engineering test pilot. When we learned of his intention to retire and go into private industry, the timing was absolutely perfect for us.”

Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw Nation who was born in Wetumka, was the first American Indian to fly in space when he was a mission specialist on Endeavour in 2002. Coming to work for Rocketplane allows Herrington to continue flying to space while being closer to his family living in Colorado.

“A lot of this was a personal decision,” Herrrington said. “It is an incredibly hard thing to do to decide to leave NASA. They do phenomenal work there, and it was a great environment. This is a decision you don’t just take lightly, but coming here just met a lot of my personal and professional goals.”

Herrington, 56, has been named vice president and director of flight systems for Rocketplane. He will be the pilot on the first test flight of the Rocketplane XP, which is scheduled for October 2006, and will fly the commercial spaceflights that are expected to begin in 2007. The company will use the runway in Burns Flat for landings and takeoffs.

With more than 330 hours in space and 20 hours of space-walk activity, Herrington was at the “end of the line” for getting a space shuttle mission. After continued problems with space shuttle design, it is unclear when the next mission will be scheduled.

“You can’t predict when you will fly again,” Herrington said. “For me trying to decide if it was in my best interest to wait for another flight, which would be a fabulous thing, or do something else that met my personal criteria, being here will allow me to do a little bit of both.”

Herrington’s addition to the Rocketplane program gives the Oklahoma City-based company a level of experience that many of its competitors can’t match, Urie said. “I think the edge it gives us is in terms of both how confident we are in our safety and quality,” Urie said. “I think John Herrington is part of the future of Rocketplane. He’s going to help define what this company becomes.”

When commercial space travel begins and passengers pay up to $200,000 for a trip into suborbital space, Herrington’s space travel experience will be invaluable.

“Certainly you want somebody on that vehicle with you who has done this before,” Herrington said. “That goes a long way.”

No comments
Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this article!
Leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
© 2014 The International Space Fellowship, developed by Gabitasoft Interactive. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy | Terms of Use