Visiting One of Our Small Business Partners

Earlier today, I visited one of NASA’s most successful small business partners, Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, Virginia to get an up close and personal look at what can be achieved when government and industry work together to achieve big things, enhance American competitiveness, and create jobs.

Founded in 1989 by John Langford and a small team of aeronautics researchers from MIT, Aurora now employs about 400 people and has become a national leader in the design and manufacture of robotic and other advanced aerospace vehicles for both scientific and military applications.   This company is an example of the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative know-how that is key to ensuring American leadership and prosperity in the global economy of the 21st century.

Almost from its start, Aurora has partnered with us at NASA on a number of projects involving innovative future aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicle technology and the SPHERES satellite test bed.  During my visit, I was treated to a ground-based demonstration of the company’s new Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft, which has the capability of flying either with a human crew or in robotic mode.

All of us at NASA are proud of our role in advancing these technologies and contributing to the growth of this dynamic company.  We are excited by the part Aurora will play as we all work together with the FAA to create America’s Next Generation aeronautics system, the goal of which is to enhance the safety and reliability of air transportation, improve efficiency in the

National Airspace System, and reduce aviation’s impact on our environment. 

Finally, let me say, as the President also pointed out the other night, we must do more to ensure that high-tech companies like Aurora have the right workers with the right skills to maintain their momentum and remain competitive going forward.  Today, growing companies in science and technology have twice as many openings as they have workers who can do the job.  That is why the President has proposed more partnerships between high-tech companies and community colleges to train 2 million Americans for the jobs of today and tomorrow.  And it is why he and NASA are such strong supporters of science, technology, engineering and math – or the STEM disciplines – in our nation’s classrooms.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama laid out a blueprint for accelerating the nation’s economic recovery.  His vision for what he called, “an America Built to Last,” begins with American manufacturing.  He has proposed a number of incentives to help businesses grow, create jobs and succeed right here in America – especially small businesses that are leading the development of new technologies.

Based on what I saw today at Aurora, the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that made this country great is alive and well in Manassas, Virginia.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver sits in the left seat of the Aurora Flight Sciences, Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA) while Aurora Flight Sciences Test Pilot Tom Washington helps demonstrate how the aircraft works during Garver’s visit to the company on Friday, Jan. 26, 2012 in Manassas, VA. Garver visited Aurora Flight Sciences to help highlight how government can partner with small business to help create the jobs of the future through investment in science and technology. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)