Scaled Composites' Kevin Mickey impresses at CAMX

The president of Scaled Composites shed some light on this aerospace specialist's past, present and future, including a sneak peak at the 385-ft wingspan Stratolaunch.

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Scaled Composites president Kevin Mickey at CAMX 2014.

CAMX 2014 (Oct. 13-16, Orlando, Fla.) was officially launched on Tuesday, Oct. 14 with a fascinating presentation by keynote speaker Kevin Mickey, president of Scaled Composites (Mojave, Calif.). He was introduced by Kim Howard of Owens Corning, who emphasized the importance of innovation, risk-taking and a collaborative working environment that is represented by Scaled Composites’ success.

Mickey, an engaging speaker who referred to CAMX attendees as the “world’s brightest people,” reviewed the many ground-breaking milestones that Scaled Composites had accomplished since its start in 1982. One of those was the winning, in 2004, of the Ansari X-Prize of $10 million for development of a reusable rocket that could take three persons to space and return safely to earth, with funding from billionaire Paul Allen. With tongue in cheek, Mickey elicited laughter when he said of the X-Prize, "Let me give you one piece of business advice: Do not spend $30 million to win $10 million."

Since winning the X-Prize, Scaled of course has gone on to develop the next-generation low-Earth orbit (LOE) spacecraft for Virgin Galactic. SpaceShipTwo is designed to be carried by WhiteKnightTwo/MotherShip Eve to a high-altitude launch point, from which SpaceShipTwo will release and rocket to LOE with passengers. Virgin Galactic is testing SpaceShipTwo now and will soon begin commercial operations.

Mickey, who reported proudly that he grew up in Mojave, stressed that his company builds “fast” with out-of-autoclave (OOA) technology and eschews “black aluminum.” The company’s latest venture, also funded by Allen, is the development of the Stratolaunch aircraft, an enormous plane with a 385-ft/117m wingspan that will carry and launch a rocket capable of carrying 13,500-lb/6,123 payloads to low-Earth orbit. The first flight of the Stratolaunch behemoth is slated for 2016.

Mickey inspired the audience with his company’s philosophy of finding programs, like Stratolaunch, that excite his workers and make for a fun working environment. He stressed that risk-taking is important: “If you take chances, you might fail, but if you don’t take chances, you’ll never make any progress. Don’t be afraid of taking educated, calculated risks!” The success of Scaled Composites shows that being bold and taking risks, while celebrating results and learning from failures, is a winning combination. Concluded Mickey, “The process shouldn’t be the product — stop talking and start doing.”