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Space exploration and space travel have long fascinated humans, and we can all recount memories of historic NASA launches and missions during our lifetimes. We have witnessed six decades of occasional unmanned research exploration probes, manned missions to the moon and to orbiting labs, and numerous operational launches to place telecommunications, mapping, and observing satellites in orbit. However, in recent years, we have seen the rapid emergence of a vibrant industry comprising a massive number of launches of telecommunications and mapping/observing satellites and an increased number of launches by private sector companies deploying many of these satellites. These companies are even transporting mission critical payloads and shuttling astronauts in cooperation with NASA, exploring potential ’space tourism,’ and more.
Tom Markusic is the CEO of Firefly Aerospace, and is one of the leaders of this rapidly growing space industry. Tom will share his perspectives on the technologies, motivations, and opportunities for space agencies and companies to work together to accelerate the exploration, applications, and opportunities of a space sector. What does all this mean for you individually? For government? Even for your company? Come hear Tom’s insights and ask your questions about the future of space and what it implies for humans and society.
CEO and CTO
Tom Markusic, an Ohio native, holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University and has twenty years of aerospace technical and business experience. Prior to co-founding Firefly, Tom served in a variety of technical and leadership roles in NewSpace companies: Vice President of Propulsion at Virgin Galactic, Senior Systems Engineer at Blue Origin, Director of the Texas Test Site and Principal Propulsion Engineer at SpaceX. Prior to his NewSpace work, Tom was a civil servant at NASA and the USAF, where he worked as research scientist and propulsion engineer. He has a comprehensive theoretical and experimental background in propulsion-related disciples such as high temperature gasdynamics, plasma physics, thermodynamics, and combustion chemistry.
Tom’s primary area of research had been electric propulsion (EP), where Tom published approximately thirty EP-related papers derived from his work in developing new thrusters, thruster subsystems, and specialized test equipment. He also has extensive, hands-on experience in flight operations as well as developing and testing chemical propulsion rockets for launch vehicles. Tom has led hundreds of tests on SpaceX’s Merlin liquid LOx/RP-1 gas generator cycle (100,000 lbf thrust) rocket engines and associated turbomachinery and components. He contributed to the development of SpaceX’s Raptor upper stage engine (LOx/LH2 staged combustion), SpaceX’s Kestrel pressure-fed LOx/RP (8,000 lbf) upper stage engines, the Draco hypergolic RCS thruster (100 lbf thrust) and others.
Tom’s principle area of technical expertise is rocket propulsion and launch vehicle development. He architected complete launch vehicles, ranging from conventional ground and air-launched vehicles (VG LauncherOne, Firefly Alpha), to futuristic reusable rocket planes (Firefly Gamma).
Firefly is his vision, where he serves as both the CEO and CTO.