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Slingshot Aerospace Adds 4 Space Experts to Advisory Board Including Former Virgin Group Executive; Former CEO of Skybox; Former Director of Space Commerce; & Distinguished Astronautics Professor

Company Hires Former University of Texas at Austin professor & Former U.S. Space Force Deputy Chief

AUSTIN, Texas & EL SEGUNDO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Slingshot Aerospace, Inc., a company building world-class space simulation and analytics solutions, announced today that Dan Berkenstock, Founder and former CEO, Skybox; Dr. Kathleen Howell, Hsu Lo Distinguished Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Purdue University; Kevin O’Connell, Former Director, Office of Space Commerce; and Mandy Vaughn, Former President of VOX Space (a Virgin Orbit subsidiary), have joined Slingshot Aerospace’s advisory board, effective immediately. Additionally, the company has hired Dr. Belinda Marchand, formerly a member of the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin and founder of Progalaxia, LLC, to serve as Director of Astrodynamics and Space Systems R&D, and former U.S. Space Force Deputy Chief of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Rapid Development Division, Alonso Segura, to serve as Senior Director, Space Systems Accounts, effective immediately.

“All these individuals bring a wealth of experience and knowledge that will accelerate our vision to create space sustainability for a safer, more connected world,” said Melanie Stricklan, Co-founder and CEO, Slingshot Aerospace. “Space is the most complex environment and organizations are making high-risk decisions without access to complete, accurate, real-time, interoperable information. Each person will be invaluable to our team as we build technologies that provide a full, dynamic picture of the space domain, allowing our customers to make decisions at the speed of relevance.”

Slingshot Aerospace Advisors

Dan Berkenstock, Former Product Manager at Google; Founder and former CEO of Skybox; Former Research Associate at NASA

Berkenstock is an entrepreneur and engineer with more than 20 years of industry experience. He co-founded Skybox Imaging, which was acquired by Google, where he led the vision, implementation, and delivery of revolutionary information, products, and services derived from timely satellite imagery as CEO. After the company’s acquisition, he served as Head of Product and Partner Development at Google. Previously, he served as a Research Associate at NASA where he developed advanced methods for aerodynamic shape optimization on surfaces.

Today, Berkenstock is working to complete a PhD at Stanford University focused on using convex optimization techniques in multidisciplinary shape optimization, and serves on the boards of several early stage aerospace startups. He was named Satellite Executive of the Year by Via Satellite magazine in 2014. In 2011, Dan was named to the MIT Technology Review list of 35 Innovators under 35.

Dr. Kathleen Howell, Hsu Lo Distinguished Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Purdue University

Dr. Howell is a scientist and aerospace engineer with nearly four decades of experience. Her distinguished career is highlighted by her contributions to dynamical systems theory applied to spacecraft trajectory design, which led to the use of halo orbits in multiple NASA space missions. Today, she is a Hsu Lo Distinguished Professor at Purdue University in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

In 2017, Dr. Howell was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for “contributions in dynamical systems theory and invariant manifolds culminating in optimal interplanetary trajectories and the Interplanetary Superhighway." She was elected as a Member of the International Academy of Astronautics in 2020. Dr. Howell was awarded the 1984 Presidential Young Investigator Award, which was presented to her from the White House by Ronald Reagan. In 2002, she was named one of the 50 most important women in science by Discover Magazine, and in 2004, she was the recipient of the Dirk Brouwer Award from the American Astronautical Society.

Dr. Howell earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University. She went on to receive her MS and PhD degrees from Stanford University in 1977 and 1983, respectively. Dr. Howell started as an assistant professor at Purdue University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1982 and is the school's first female tenured professor.

Kevin O’Connell, Former Director, Officer of Space Commerce

O’Connell has over 35 years of experience in the U.S. government, research organizations, and as an entrepreneur and business leader. Most notably, he was Director of the Office of Space Commerce, the principal organization for space commerce policy activities within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Its mission is to foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the U.S. commercial space industry. O’Connell has also researched and written extensively on the policy, security, and global market issues related to commercialization of remote sensing, or the science of obtaining information about objects or areas from a distance, typically from aircraft or satellites. He served as the Executive Secretary and Staff Director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency Commission, and was a member, and later Chair, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s federal advisory committee on remote sensing. Previously, O’Connell served as a senior consultant to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and as an independent advisor to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

O’Connell’s background also includes extensive experience in national security and intelligence matters, including assignments in the Department of Defense, Department of State, National Security Council, and the Office of the Vice President. He spent a decade conducting and managing research in these areas at the RAND Corporation, including as the first director of RAND’s Intelligence Policy Center, and was a long-standing Adjunct Professor of comparative intelligence at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Security Studies Program. Most recently, he founded Space Economy Rising, LLC, where he works with clients and partners worldwide on all aspects of the growing space economy.

Mandy Vaughn, Former President & CEO, VOX Space

Vaughn is a space industry expert with more than 20 years of experience. She is the former President and CEO of VOX Space, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Orbit, LLC that provides satellite launch services. She originally joined Virgin Group by way of Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline and vertically integrated aerospace company, and eventually transitioned to Virgin Orbit, a revolutionary service that provides launch solutions for small satellites. There, she was the Senior Director of Business Development and Mission Management where she supported customer missions including NASA. She worked her way up within Virgin Group and eventually spearheaded the creation and registration of VOX Space.

Prior to joining Virgin Galactic, Vaughn was a developmental engineer and program manager in the Air Force and a Director with Kinsey Technical Services. She primarily supported programs in the Space Superiority Systems Directorate. In the space superiority mission area, she was the ground segment lead and chief engineer on the space-based surveillance program, and then supported a variety of space and ground-based programs for the directorate. In that role, she supported multiple space situational awareness and command-and-control programs between the U.S. Department of Defense and the intelligence community. Today, she is the Founder and CEO of GXO Inc., where she provides strategic, management, and technical leadership to help deep tech and new space companies excel.

Vaughn is a member of NASA’s National Space Council’s User Advisory Group and advises on topics like international laws and regulations, national security space, and scientific and human space exploration priorities. She is also the Chair of Workforce Development for the National Security Space Association (NSSA) where she identifies, fosters, and mentors the next generation workforce to build a strong national security space community. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics, both from MIT.

Slingshot Aerospace New Hires

Belinda Marchand, Director of Astrodynamics and R&D, Slingshot Aerospace

Dr. Marchand brings nearly 30 years of experience in both industry and academia to the Slingshot Aerospace team. She began her career as an engineer for McDonnel Douglas Aerospace, later acquired by The Boeing Company. In this initial role, she led technical assessments, simulations, and software development in support of various defense projects. After completing her doctoral degree, Dr. Marchand transitioned from industry to academia, first as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Purdue University and later as an Assistant Professor at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). During this time she taught and led a research program rooted in astrodynamics and space vehicle guidance, navigation and control, supporting both space exploration and defense applications.

While on the faculty at UT Austin, Dr. Marchand also served as a senior member of the technical staff at The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and later The Aerospace Corporation, supporting research areas ranging from missile defense applications to lunar space flight. In 2011, she stepped away from academia to join Decisive Analytics Corporation as a Senior Engineer and later went on to start her own consulting company, Progalaxia, LLC, where she continued to apply her technical expertise to various problems in space vehicle trajectory design, guidance, navigation and control.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Marchand’s research activities have supported numerous NASA space mission concepts, including the areas of formation flight and libration point mission design. She was the recipient of the Air Force Young Investigator award and has been involved in many research subjects in the space domain, from mission design to space situational awareness.

Dr. Marchand holds a PhD from the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University, where she also completed a Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering.

Alonso Segura, Sr. Director, Space Systems Accounts, Slingshot Aerospace

Segura is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with a twenty year record of innovative performance in government acquisitions across all levels of the Department of Defense (DoD). He has led multiple diverse inter-agency teams and managed large investment budgets across all classifications in order to deliver new capabilities in space control, cross-domain command and control, wargaming, foreign military sales, security cooperation, and intelligence surveillance and recognizance.

Most recently, Segura served as Deputy Chief, Rapid Development Division for the U.S. Space Force, where he built and led a diverse rapid prototyping team to plan and deliver multiple satellites to orbit including ride-share platforms, threat emulation platforms, and proliferated constellation proof-of-concept platforms. He also championed the growth of the U.S. space industrial base as a strong advocate for lowering the barriers of entry for non-traditional businesses into DoD acquisitions by advancing the use of innovative contracting methods.

Segura has also been assigned to the former U.S. Air Force Space Command’s Space Superiority Directorate, where he led a team of space control experts in the pursuit of national space superiority. And he’s also been assigned to U.S. Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon, where he served as the Chief of Airborne Networks, leading a DoD-wide effort to advance sensor-to-user intelligence systems.

Over his career, Segura delivered innovative solutions to DoD’s toughest technology challenges, with a passion for expanding the national industrial base. He holds a BS in Physics and Computer Science from the University of Southern California, and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from New England College.

About Slingshot Aerospace

Slingshot Aerospace, Inc. is creating world-class space simulation and analytics solutions. The company brings the space domain into the digital environment and fuses data from different sources to provide a full, dynamic orbital picture. In doing so, Slingshot Aerospace customers can make decisions at the speed of relevance and achieve clarity in complex environments. Launched in 2017 and based in Austin, TX, and Los Angeles, CA, Slingshot Aerospace seeks to help government and commercial customers accelerate space sustainability to create a safer, more connected world. Visit and follow Slingshot Aerospace on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Kylee Keskerian 419-822-6417,