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Making Leaders: How One Woman Helps Build the Industry's Future

In this two-part Making Leaders podcast, we hear from Debra Facktor, Head of U.S. Space Systems at Airbus U.S. Space & Defense and the 2023 Mentor of the Year. Throughout her more than 30 years in the space industry, Debra has served as a mentor and guide for more than 25 interns and young leaders beginning their careers and countless more leaders as they continue their professional journeys. Of note, she provided vital advice and support to Gary Lai, who went on to become the Chief Architect at Blue Origin, when he was an intern and young engineer starting out at Kistler Aerospace. Debra founded the Women in Aerospace (WIA) Foundation in 2009 – which has provided scholarships to 35 women pursuing higher education degrees in aerospace fields over the past 13 years – and served as a mentor to the inaugural recipient, Dr. Whitney Lohmeyer, whom she still mentors today. She is a sought-after speaker for panels, business deals and general industry advice due to her powerful combination of enthusiasm, energy and sharp business acumen.

Debra is Head of U.S. Space Systems for Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, a position she has held for 3.5 years. In her current role, Debra leads the company’s space business line with a focus on small satellite constellations and space exploration, and serves on the board of the Airbus OneWeb Satellites joint venture. Her contributions have been vital to the company’s remarkable 4-year compound annual growth rate of 145%. Before joining Airbus U.S., she served as Vice President and General Manager of Strategic Operations at Ball Aerospace, where she led the firm’s D.C. operations and expanded its strategic capabilities in the defense, civil and commercial sectors. Debra’s previous positions also include President and an owner of AirLaunch LLC, which won funding from DARPA to develop an operationally responsive small launch vehicle under her leadership. She served as Vice President for Business Development and Strategic Planning at Kistler Aerospace, which raised over $600 million in private capital to develop a reusable launch vehicle for commercial markets. Her strategies laid the groundwork for what became commercial resupply of the International Space Station. Debra began her career at ANSER, where she served in a variety of leadership positions before becoming Chief of Moscow Operations. Read more about Debra.

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