As chair of the National Space Council, Harris is the public face of the Biden administration’s space initiatives, which include a greater emphasis on tracking Earth’s changing climate and luring students into scientific and technical fields. On the international front, Harris faces a complicated U.S.-Russian space partnership that has been challenged further by Russia’s Nov. 15, 2021, anti-satellite test.
Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin founder
Credit: Blue Origin
Since stepping down as CEO of Amazon, Bezos has been spending more time at his space company, Blue Origin. In 2021, the company became the first to fly paying passengers to suborbital space. Bigger challenges lie ahead, including completion of the company’s reusable orbital-class New Glenn booster, supplying BE-4 engines to United Launch Alliance and work on the planned Orbital Reef multipurpose outpost in low Earth orbit. That project has sparked NASA’s interest as a potential follow-on to the International Space Station.
Elon Musk, SpaceX founder
Credit: Kim Shiflett/NASA
The day after Thanksgiving, Musk, who also is CEO and chief engineer, pleaded to his workforce to step up production of Raptor engines for the company’s new Starship transportation fleet. Despite huge successes with SpaceX’s Falcon and Dragon systems, Musk is counting on the Starship to fulfill his goal of creating technology for humans to live on Mars.
Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for space operations
Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA
Much of the credit for NASA’s successful transition to fixed-price service contracts for cargo and crew flights to the International Space Station (ISS) goes to Lueders, who now is the agency’s associate administrator for space operations. In that role, Lueders is building new partnerships with companies that may be able to host NASA’s microgravity research and technology demonstrations on commercially operated platforms after the ISS is retired. She also is testing how far the public-private partnership model can be pushed in the deep-space Artemis exploration program.
Tory Bruno, United Launch Alliance CEO
After betting the future of United Launch Alliance on the new Vulcan rocket, Bruno now has to deliver the goods. The booster’s debut launch is targeted for the second or third quarter of 2022. Bruno needs two successful flights as part of the Vulcan’s certification to fly national security payloads, all the while maintaining the company’s perfect record of Atlas V and Delta IV launches.
After years of investments, several new space technologies reach key milestones in 2022. Here are some of the people to watch.
Irene Klotz is Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.