Former Space Station Commander Tim Kopra joins MDA

NASA astronaut Tim Kopra poses inside the cupola module onboard the International Space Station. Kopra, who was born in Austin, Texas, is the commander of Expedition 47 and previously served as a flight engineer during Expeditions 46 and 20. Credit: NASA.

Tim Kopra, a former Army Colonel, helicopter pilot, NASA astronaut and International Space Station Commander, has joined MDA as the Vice President, Robotics and Space Operations.

Kopra joins MDA from Blue Bear Capital where he was a partner and advisor. According to the MDA press release, Blue Bear Capital, a private equity firm, “invests in high-growth technology companies and start-ups across the energy, infrastructure and climate industries.”

While Kopra officially left NASA on October 1, 2018. He started at Blue Bear Capital not long after his final flight ended in June 2016, when he was the Commander of the International Space Station for Expedition 47.

Kopra graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point (1985) with a Bachelor of Science degree and followed that up with a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology (1995) and graduated from the US Navy Test Pilot School (1996). After he joined NASA in 2000 he completed two more degrees, receiving a Master of Strategic Studies from US Army War College (2006), and Master of Business Administration degrees from Columbia Business School and the London Business School (2013).

SpaceQ spoke with MDA CEO Mike Greenley to discuss Kopra’s hiring. Greenley sounded excited at having Kopra join the company and cited his extensive experience, including his time at NASA, as well as effort to go back to school and get a Master of Business Administration degree.

While MDA is publicly well known for its Robotics work, Greenley stressed that its Space Operations business is integral to the business. As an example, he said “up to 100 people” are working on space operations related to the International Space Station.

Kopra will use his knowledge and experience to manage the Robotics and Space Operations portfolio, an area MDA sees having growth potential. With his recent experience working at Blue Bear Capital, he’ll be expected to work to help Daniel Schulten and his team at MDA’s Launchpad initiative. That program looks to foster collaborations with small and medium businesses to bring new products to the market.

Kopra is currently based in Houston and working from home. The plan however is for him to move MDA’s Brampton office when it’s safe to do so.

In my conversation with Greenley, he also said the company is continuing with the process of transitioning to a private company, and the he had recently met with the new Board of Directors. Greenley said the transition is proceeding smoothly, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

On the topic of the COVID-19, Greenley said the company had was doing well in having many of its employees working from home. However, the company plans to transition some workers back to their offices in some locations when it’s safe to do so.

The company has hired some 100 people since the beginning of the year, with some 60 since March according to Greenley. They are also in the process of bringing in students for the summer. At the same time, Greenley did admit that the coronavirus had forced them to lay off some staff, though he didn’t disclose those numbers. MDA has previously told SpaceQ that they were taking advantage of some of the governments Coronavirus programs to help the company where needed.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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