Becoming Spacefaring: America’s Path Forward in Space

About the Author: James M. (Mike) Snead has wide-ranging systems and structural engineering experience from a variety of significant projects including the X-30 National Aerospace Plane, Delta Clipper Experimental (DC-X), and USAF Transatmospheric Vehicle (TAV). He holds an MS in Aerospace Engineering from the US Air Force Institute of Technology and a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati. He is a registered professional engineer in the State of Ohio and a graduate of the Department of Defense’s Advanced Program Management program (in residence). He has chaired the AIAA Space Logistics Technical Committee and is an Associate Fellow of the AIAA.

Mike was the Project Engineer for the Air Force TAV Project Office where he led the technology readiness assessment for a fully-reusable, manned, space access system. Following establishment of the National Aerospace Plane Program (X-30), he was the Chief Flight Systems Engineer (Phase I) and Lead Structures Engineer (Phase II) in the X-30 Joint Program Office Systems Engineering Division. Later, he was a name-requested Government Technical Consultant for the DC-X Program – supporting this program through the fourth flight test – and served on the X-33 source selection. He developed systems engineering concepts for an integrated spacefaring logistics infrastructure focusing on fully-reusable to-space and in-space transportation capable of achieving the equivalent of airworthiness certification for safety. His primary efforts were developing fully-reusable, rocket-powered, TSTO system concepts using current technologies as well as concepts using advanced airbreathing propulsion.

Prior to his focus on space systems, Mike worked in the Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center’s Engineering Directorate doing both original engineering and contractor structural engineering oversight on a diverse range of aircraft including the F-4, F-111, C-141, and Saudi AWACS. He served on the Executive Independent Review Team assessing first flight readiness for the YF-22 and YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighters and on the F-22 independent cost team. While working in the Air Force Research Laboratory, He served as Lead for Agile Combat Support where, in addition to focusing on future space logistics, he co-developed the Configurable Air Transport (CAT) tanker and air mobility concept. He also initiated and led a wide-ranging futures wargaming effort, reporting to the Air Force Chief Scientist, focusing on advanced military weapons system conceptualization.

In addition, he established and leads the Spacefaring Institute LLC with a special focus on space solar power and the integrated spacefaring logistics capabilities needed to make space solar power a primary sustainable energy supply capability. In this effort, Mike has published several papers and a YouTube video on space solar power and the enabling spacefaring logistics capabilities.

A repository of Mike Snead’s technical papers is available at