Jess Sponable

Jess is currently the Chief Engineer for the Air Force Research Laboratories Reusable Boost System (RBS) Flagship program. During his civilian service at AFRL Jess has served in many positions, including the focus area lead for space access & long range strike, the future capability lead for prompt global strike, the program manager for the Fully Reusable Access to Space Technology program, and as a program manager on loan to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). At DARPA Jess managed several programs that matured technology for dramatically more efficient inter-orbit transfer, next generation space tugs, on-orbit spacecraft servicing and small satellites. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1978 and holds advanced degrees in Astronautical Engineering, Systems Management and is a graduate of the Defense Systems Management College. During his military career he held many diverse jobs ranging from Atlas launch operations at Vandenberg AFB to pioneering jobs developing and launching the first generation of Global Positioning System satellites and maturing technology for the National Aero-Space Plane program. In 1981 he was selected as an Air Force Manned Spaceflight Engineer and trained as a Space Shuttle payload specialist prior to the Challenger accident. During the 1990’s he served as the Program Manager of the Delta Clipper-Experimental (DC-X) program and later served in the Space Vehicles Directorate managing many programs; including the military spaceplane technology initiative, the X-40A flight test vehicle, low cost expendable launch and stage technology, solar thermal orbit transfer vehicle technology and numerous studies advocating the need for responsive space access and operations. After leaving the Air Force in 1998, Jess spent three years at Universal Space Lines working for Pete Conrad, the Apollo 12 and Skylab commander. He has served on numerous national space transportation studies and panels. Jess has been nationally recognized for his advancement of space technology including a “Best of What’s New” annual award from Popular Science magazine, a “From Vision to Reality” award from the Space Frontier Foundation, an Aviation Week Laurel Award, the National Space Society selected him as “1 of 25 Rising Stars” in space, Space News selected him as one of the “Top 100 People” who made a difference since 1989, and the Air Force Research Laboratory gave Jess its Commander’s Cup – its top award given each year to one of the 5,800 laboratory employees.
Jess Sponable
Chief Engineer of Reusable Boost System, AFRL