As Astra brings on talent, we’ll highlight new and veteran members of the Astra team and community who are working toward our mission of improving life on Earth from space. This week we speak with Doug Kunzman. In his new role as Vice President of Test and Launch Engineering and Operations, Doug brings with him nearly 40 years of experience in the US Navy, as well as two years at Blue Origin as Senior Director of New Shepard Operations and Maintenance.
Tell us a little about yourself
I enlisted in the military in 1980 and was selected for an officer program. I completed my BA in Business Administration and my MS in Public Administration, and became a naval officer, spending just under 40 years in the Navy, with 5 different commands. I retired in 2018, then spent two years at Blue Origin. I have a wife who stuck with me through all of that, including 23 years while I was deployed, along with two sons, and three grandchildren (four any day now!).
How did you become interested in space?
Space has always fascinated me. I’ve admired our ability to reach space — those who work on the hardware and the software, and the astronauts who have been there. Anything that requires that amount of work and that level of expertise is amazing to me. Anything that is hard interests me — and space is very hard.
In the Navy, I learned the concept of aggressive excellence. You have to balance those two things — operational perfection and driving relentlessly toward your goals. That’s what it takes to reach space safely, reliably, and with purpose.
Why did you decide to join Astra?
The persistence of Astra’s team over the past year as they have been working hard on their launch system struck me, and that’s what originally piqued my interest. I’ve watched from outside and have seen the energy and motivation of these people. If that’s an indication of Astra’s ultimate outcome, I see nothing but success in this company’s future.
I’ve also been intrigued by Astra’s aggressive mission and its vision for frequent launches. That’s a challenge, and so it’s something I want to be a part of.
What do you think the role of space will be in our world’s future?
Everything on Earth is finite. If we want to go beyond the limits of what’s here, we have to build an economy in space. It can’t be just one company or one country — we need a broad effort from many bright minds to get to space and figure out how to take advantage of it to improve our lives, and eventually reach other planets. If we don’t commit to space, humanity will be finite, too. The technology Astra is delivering and developing is going to be a part of the solution.
What are you looking forward to most about your new role?
I’m most excited about getting on site, meeting people, and starting to build relationships. The people are the most important part of any effort. I want to start developing trust – to come in and listen, learn, and then find ways that I can add value. Then I look forward to accomplishing our mission.
What’s something valuable you bring to your position at Astra?
My diverse background in the military and at Blue Origin has helped me build leadership skills that will come in handy at Astra. I work in trust, and I have deep experience in aligning some of the smartest people in the world behind a single purpose, encouraging them to perform, and holding them and myself accountable.
What’s a fun fact about you that your new team members should know?
I was featured on the Discovery Channel’s Mighty Ships series while I was commanding the USS Gravely. They filmed me for eight days and only had to bleep me once!
Learn more about Doug here.