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Leader in Defence: David Thompson - a former CEO of Orbital Sciences Corporation

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

David Thompson is a former CEO of Orbital Sciences Corporation, a company that specialises in the design and manufacture of space systems and components, which is now part of Northrop Grumman Innovation System, served as the CEO of the company for almost 30 years, 1987 to 2015. During his tenure as CEO, he made a significant impact on the company's growth and success.

One of Thompson's notable achievements was the development of the Pegasus rocket, a small, air-launched rocket designed to place small payloads into orbit. This innovation transformed the industry by reducing the cost and complexity of launching small satellites into space. The Pegasus rocket has been used in numerous missions, including the launch of the first privately funded rocket to reach orbit. Thompson's leadership and vision led to the successful development and deployment of the Pegasus rocket, which played a significant role in the commercialisation of space.

Under Thompson's leadership, Orbital Sciences Corporation also played a critical role in the development of the International Space Station (ISS). The company designed and built the Cygnus spacecraft, which is used to deliver supplies and equipment to the ISS. Orbital Sciences Corporation was one of only two companies selected by NASA to provide cargo resupply services to the ISS. The successful development and deployment of the Cygnus spacecraft and other space systems helped solidify the company's reputation as a leader in the space industry.

Another significant achievement of Thompson was the merger of Orbital Sciences Corporation with Alliant Techsystems (ATK) in 2014. The merger created a new company, Orbital ATK, which was later acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2018. Thompson played a key role in negotiating the merger and ensuring a smooth transition for both companies. The merger allowed Orbital ATK to expand its capabilities and increase its competitiveness in the space industry.

In recognition of his contributions to the space industry, Thompson received numerous awards and honors throughout his career. He was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor in 2007 and was awarded the National Space Trophy in 2015. These awards reflect the respect and admiration that Thompson earned for his leadership and vision in the field of space exploration.

David Thompson's impact on the space industry as the former CEO of Orbital Sciences Corporation is undeniable. His innovative spirit and leadership helped transform the industry and solidified Orbital Sciences Corporation's position as a leader in the field. Thompson's vision led to the development of the Pegasus rocket, the Cygnus spacecraft, and other space systems, which helped advance space exploration and commercialization. The successful merger with Alliant Techsystems and the subsequent acquisition by Northrop Grumman further expanded the company's capabilities and competitiveness in the industry. Thompson's contributions to the space industry have been widely recognised and celebrated, and his legacy continues to inspire and influence the industry today.


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