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Chuck Beames
Vulcan Aerospace’s Chuck Beames talks about spaceflight during a 2014 panel discussion in Mojave, Calif., marking the 10th anniversary of SpaceShipOne’s flights. (XPRIZE via YouTube)

Aerospace veteran Chuck Beames is leaving his post as president of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s spaceflight company, Vulcan Aerospace.

Word of Beames’ departure came from Allen in an internal email that was sent to Vulcan employees and obtained by GeekWire today. Allen said Jean Floyd, the CEO of Vulcan’s Stratolaunch Systems, will expand his role to become Vulcan Aerospace’s interim executive director as well.

Jean Floyd
Jean Floyd (Via LinkedIn)

Beames served as executive director of Stratolaunch Systems as well as president of Vulcan Aerospace Corp.

The shift comes as team members at Vulcan Aerospace and Stratolaunch, its subsidiary, are ramping up construction of what will be the world’s biggest airplane in Mojave, Calif. The twin-fuselage jet is to serve as a flying platform for launching rockets into orbit.

As of June, Stratolaunch said assembly of the plane is 76 percent complete. During a tour of the Mojave facilities, Beames told reporters that Allen wants to have Stratolaunch sending payloads to orbit by the end of the decade.

“Come hell or high water, you can be sure that we’re going to do that,” Beames said in June.

Paul Allen
Paul Allen.

Today Allen suggested that Beames’ departure is related to Stratolaunch’s anticipated shift to its operational phase.

“With this change, Chuck Beames has decided that now is the right time to leave Vulcan Aerospace,” Allen wrote in the email. “I am supportive of Chuck’s decision and thank him for his commitment and stewardship these past two years.”

There was no word as to Beames’ future plans. Efforts to contact Beames were unsuccessful.

Beames came to Vulcan Aerospace in 2014 from the Defense Department, where he spent nearly 30 years in a variety of assignments relating to space and intelligence systems.

Floyd joined Stratolaunch a year ago after serving as vice president and general manager for the civil and defense division at Orbital ATK.


Tellingly, Allen called Orbital ATK “a valued partner” in his email. At one time, Orbital was slated to provide rockets for Stratolaunch, but that partnership has been in limbo for the past year.

Vulcan Aerospace isn’t the only spaceflight company in the Seattle area that’s reshaping its executive team. This month, Clay Mowry left his longtime position as president of Arianespace Inc., the European launch company’s U.S. subsidiary, to work for Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture.

Mowry’s updated LinkedIn profile says he’s in charge of global sales, marketing and customer experience activities for Blue Origin, which has its headquarters in Kent, south of Seattle. The new president of Arianespace Inc. is Wiener Kernisan.

Here’s the full text of today’s email from Paul Allen:


Over the last two years we have made significant progress in our quest to open up access to space. I am grateful for the rigor and hard work that our Aerospace team has brought to this effort.

Now that we’re closer to realizing our vision for convenient and affordable access to low Earth orbit (LEO) and moving into a more operational phase of our program, we are making some changes to our leadership.

First, I am pleased to announce that we are expanding Jean Floyd’s role. Moving forward, Jean will lead Vulcan Aerospace as Interim Executive Director while continuing in his role as CEO of Stratolaunch Systems.

Jean joined Stratolaunch in 2015 after 25 years with Orbital ATK, a valued partner of Vulcan Aerospace. He is a seasoned aerospace professional who has experience leading air-launched space vehicle development, launch operations, and spacecraft programs. I am confident he brings the vision and expertise needed to lead us during this next phase of Vulcan Aerospace’s development.

With this change, Chuck Beames has decided that now is the right time to leave Vulcan Aerospace.  I am supportive of Chuck’s decision and thank him for his commitment and stewardship these past two years.

Chuck and Jean have informed the team and are working to ensure a smooth transition. Please share this news with your teams as relevant.

Space remains the next great frontier and I believe Vulcan Aerospace is well-positioned to unlock affordable access to LEO. I am extremely proud of all this team has accomplished and I look forward to the realization of our efforts as we near completion of the Stratolaunch carrier aircraft.


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