On the evening of April 28, the space industry recognized its shining stars at the annual Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation awards gala. With former CNN anchor Miles O’Brien back again as master of ceremonies, the Foundation celebrated notable contributions to our nation’s space program.

RNASA was founded in 1985 to organize and coordinate an annual event to recognize outstanding achievements in space and create greater public awareness of the benefits of space exploration. Since 1989, the Foundation has presented the National Space Trophy to an outstanding individual who has made major contributions in space achievement. Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin presented this year’s National Space Trophy to Dr. John Grunsfeld, former NASA Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate. Voice of NASA, Rob Navias, received this year’s Space Communicator award.

RNASA also presents the Stellar awards to outstanding individuals in the industry in the Team and Early, Mid and Late career categories. Winners are selected by a Stellar Awards Evaluation Panel based on which accomplishments hold the greatest promise for furthering future activities in space, the extent to which the nominee played a key role in the accomplishment and the extent to which the nominee meets the goal of recognizing "unsung heroes."

This year’s nominations were evaluated by former National Associate Administrator for Space Systems Development, Arnold D. Aldrich; and former National Space Trophy winners, Dr. Glynn S. Lunney; Col. Eileen Collins, USAF (Ret.); and Capt. Michael L. Coats, USN (Ret.). Out of 149 nominations received, the panel selected 25 individuals and 7 teams for recognition.

The Stellar Award winners each received engraved marble trophies generously sponsored by Orbital ATK. At the banquet, astronauts Dr. Kjell Lindgren and Dr. Kate Rubins presented trophies to each of the winners.

Orbital ATK is proud to have had a total of eight individual nominees and four team nominations with two individual team winners and one team taking home awards this year. Congratulations go out to Jeffrey Bemis (mid-career award), Mark Ferguson (late career award), and the NextGen Cygnus Design Team (team award).

Congratulations are also in order for the Dawn Flight Team for outstanding work on a mission that reveals new insights about the dawn of the solar system. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory accepted the award on behalf of the team. Orbital ATK designed and built the Dawn spacecraft.

The list of all Orbital ATK nominees in their respective categories are as follows:

Orbital ATK had three nominees for Stellar Awards in the Early Career category, including:

  • Breanne Sutton, outstanding leadership of the Orion ACM analysis team to a successful CDR and community service through AIAA leadership and STEM activities
  • Sean Tully, for exceptional systems engineering and leadership skills contributing to the success of several Cygnus missions to the space station
  • Chelsea Walker, for outstanding work ethic, talent, dedication and results-driven focus enabling timely resolution of a high-risk Space Launch System (SLS) booster motor concern

In the Mid-Career category, the following individuals were nominated:


Astronaut Dr. Kjell Lindgren presents Orbital ATK's Jeffrey Bemis with the RNASA Stellar Award for outstanding leadership of Orbital ATK's Orion Launch Abort Control Motor team.

  • Jeffrey Bemis, for “outstanding leadership of the Orion Launch Abort Attitude Control Motor in reconstituting the team and carrying it though a successful critical design review" (Stellar Award Winner)
  • Jeremy Redden, for significant contributions to SLS, both as a technical expert and ambassador for the next generation of human spaceflight

Orbital ATK had three nominees for Stellar Awards in the Late Career category, including:


Mark Ferguson receives an award from Dr. Kate Rubins for his exceptional program management of the pressurized cargo module of Cygnus.

  • Mark Ferguson, for exceptional technical program management of the pressurized cargo module of Cygnus (Stellar Award Winner)
  • William (Bill) Slade, for outstanding innovation and leadership in ordnance systems, stage design, and systems design and engineering
  • William David Starrett, for superior technical leadership over the course of the Space Shuttle, Ares and SLS programs, resulting in the success of several first-time booster integration efforts and flight milestones

Team Stellar Award nominations included:


Orbital ATK's Keith Davies of the NextGen Cygnus Design Team accepts the team award from astronaut Dr. Kjell Lindgren for outstanding technical leadership and teamwork.

  • Antares Return to Flight Team, for outstanding teamwork resulting in the successful launch of the upgraded Antares launch vehicle to the space station
  • NextGen Cygnus Design Team, for outstanding technical leadership and teamwork in the design and implementation of the next generation Cygnus spacecraft, resulting in increased capability, reliability, and science utilization for the space station (Stellar Award Winner)
  • Launch Abort System Attitude Control Motor Team, successfully completing CDR on the world’s only human-rated controllable solid after a 4.5 year shutdown, reconstituting a team, and redesigning to fully meet NASA Spaceflight Requirements
  • Saffire Integration and Operations Team (along with the Saffire Team of NASA Glenn Research Center), for successful development and demonstration of an advanced spacecraft fire safety experiment (Saffire) flown as a Cygnus hosted payload

The full list of nominees and award winners can be found on RNASA’s website at http://www.rnasa.org/stellar.html.