Streams: Manufacturing, Space
Jeff Thornburg is a career space engineer and leader who brings a wealth of valuable experience to the CDL team. Jeff is currently the senior vice president of engineering for Agility Robotics and the founder of two space companies – Portal Space Systems and Interstellar Technologies. He has previously led the growth of Amazon’s Kuiper satellite mechanical engineering and manufacturing teams as the director of engineering. Other notable roles include being the vice president for propulsion engineering at Stratolaunch, where he worked with the late Paul Allen, and became the senior director of propulsion engineering at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. There, he served as the principal engineer and architect of the Raptor engine development program for the Starship and Starship Booster. Jeff also served as the second vice president of propulsion engineering at SpaceX, overseeing flight, test, development and research operations while also supporting customer interactions, including those with NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
He oversaw six successful Falcon 9 launches during his time as the vice president of propulsion and coordinated qualification and certification activities with the U.S. Air Force and NASA. Jeff was also a lead propulsion engineer and turbomachinery technical project manager for the J-2X engine development program at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Jeff spent 4 years working for Aerojet as an engineering director for their liquid engine turbomachinery group and served as the site manager for the Aerojet-Woodland Hills engineering office in Woodland Hills, California.
Jeff started his career in the U.S. Air Force as a flight commander and aircraft maintenance officer on KC-135R tanker aircraft at MacDill AFB, Florida. He was selected to attend the Air Force Institute of Technology and earned his master’s in aeronautical engineering. Jeff was stationed at Edwards AFB, California, where he joined the liquid rocket engine branch at the Air Force Research Laboratory where he worked on several component and engine technology programs including leadership of the joint Air Force-NASA Integrated Powerhead Demonstration engine. This program performed the world’s first hydrogen full-flow staged combustion cycle engine demonstration. He has received numerous Air Force and NASA awards including a NASA Space Flight Awareness award, the NASA ‘Made It Happen’ award, the NASA ‘Stennis Space Center Propulsion Test Director’s Leadership Award’, and was an Air Force Research Laboratory Technical Program Manager of the Year. In addition to his master’s degree, he has a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.