Payload Pioneers 2023

When we launched the Payload Pioneers, we hoped to get a diverse group of 30 rising stars in the space community under 30 years old who were contributing fresh issues to the industry.

Boy, did our community deliver. 

We are so impressed with the caliber of our winners, who are working in roles from cofounders to engineers to investors, and we can’t wait to share more about them with you. 

By the numbers: We received 130+ nominations, which we whittled down to our 30 winners (more on how we did that below). The youngest winner is just 23 years old. The oldest is 29. 

It’s clear from this list that the next generation of the space industry is not the stereotypical boys club of yore. 

  • Our list is 53% women.
  • Winners represent many different races and ethnicities, including Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indian. 
  • The list includes people from 30 organizations around the globe, including in the US, UK, Canada, France, and India.
  • Nine winners founded or cofounded companies before the age of 30.

The process: Each of our winners received at least one nomination, and self-nominations weren’t allowed. We asked the top 60 for more information, which was shared along with the initial nominations with our three judges, who have a long history of prestigious roles in industry and government:

  • Rob Meyerson, founder and CEO of Delalune Space, and former president of Blue Origin
  • Kim Crider, founding partner of Elara Nova and the Space Force’s first chief technology and innovation officer
  • And Justin Johnson, the head of strategy at Metrea and a former DoD space official 

We want to formally thank our judges, who invested hours reading application materials and considering nominees. The judges evaluated candidates against a set of three criteria:

  • Innovation: Candidates should bring fresh ideas to the space community, or approach old problems in new ways.
  • Promotion: Candidates should promote the use of space, especially in non-traditional space fields. 
  • Transformation: Candidates should be trying to change the space industry for the better. 

Each judge ranked each candidate on a scale of 1-10 for each of the three criteria to give a numerical ranking out of 30. Payload then convened the three judges to debate and vote on the final list below.

Please join us in congratulating our first group of Payload Pioneers! 

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