Sierra Space hires former SpaceX executive as CIO

WASHINGTON — Sierra Space has hired a former SpaceX executive as its chief information officer as the company builds up its infrastructure to support work on commercial spacecraft and a space station.

The company announced Oct. 6 it hired Ken Venner as senior vice president and chief information officer. Venner served as CIO of SpaceX from 2012 to 2018 and most recently was president and chief product officer of e-Share, a company developing collaboration software.

Jeff Babione, chief operating officer of Sierra Space, billed the hiring of Venner as part of efforts to build up the company, spun out of Sierra Nevada Corporation last year. “We are confident that he will play a significant role in helping the company continue to expand and build platforms in space to help benefit life on Earth,” he said in a statement.

Ken Venner
Ken Venner, who served as SpaceX’s CIO from 2012 to 2018, is the new CIO of Sierra Space. Credit: Sierra Space

“Sierra Space stands at the forefront of the emerging space economy and is in the unique position to build a vibrant, growing and accessible commercial space economy through Dream Chaser, Orbital Reef and more,” Venner said in the statement. “I look forward to helping grow Sierra Space and cement its position as an industry leader in the commercial space economy.”

While Sierra Space just announced the hiring of Venner as CIO, he had been at the company for three months. “Excited to be part of the team that is going to make space affordable and obtainable for all,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post last week. “Been here since 7/5/2022 – just found enough time to update my LinkedIn status just now.”

The hiring is part of what Sierra Space calls an “extensive recruitment drive” that seeks to nearly double the size of its workforce with 1,000 new positions this year. The company said Sept. 27 that effort was “well underway” with the hiring of another executive, Heidi Hendrix, as its chief people officer.

Those employees will largely work on the company’s Dream Chaser vehicle and Orbital Reef, a commercial space station Sierra Space is partnering with Blue Origin and others to develop.

During a session of the International Astronautical Congress in Paris Sept. 19, Janet Kavandi, president of Sierra Space, said the company now expected the long-delayed first flight of Dream Chaser to take place in the summer of 2023 on the second launch of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur. That mission is the first of seven that the company has under contract with NASA to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station.

She added the company was actively developing a crewed version of Dream Chaser. “We expect to fly people on a crewed version by 2026,” she said, “which should be in plenty of time for our debut of Orbital Reef in the 2027 or ’28 time frame.”

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