Astrobotic Technology Inc. is a Pittsburgh based company that delivers affordable space robotics technology and planetary missions. Amidst the burgeoning commercial space industry, Astrobotic is pioneering affordable planetary access that promises to spark a new era of exploration, science, tourism, resource utilization and mining.  The catalyst  is a race to the Moon led by Google Lunar X PRIZE teams and countries like China and India. For the first time in history, start-ups and universities are competing with nations to land on the Moon.  Astrobotic was spun out of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in 2008 and operates under a Sponsored Research Agreement that exclusively licenses space robotics technology to the company.

The Team

john_1John Thornton, Chief Executive Officer.  John Thornton has grown Astrobotic’s business of delivering affordable space robotics technology and planetary missions by attracting technology contracts, equity investment, and payload customers. Thornton is coordinating the team and alliance to align for Griffin’s development and the 2015 mission. As Astrobotic’s Chief Engineer, Thornton led the build of the Griffin lander. At Carnegie Mellon, Thornton led the build of Scarab, a NASA concept robot for lunar drilling, and the first robot to carry a prototype of NASA’s RESOLVE payload. In 2010, he founded the Advanced Composites Lab, a research, training, design, and manufacturing lab specializing in high performance, lightweight composites for robotics.

Steven Huber, Chief Operating Officer. Steve Huber led the design, build, and testing of Griffin’s primary structure, landing sensor gimbal, compressive legs, and rover egress ramps. Huber leads Astrobotic’s ILDD contract including flight qualification of Griffin’s structure and development of two major design documents – the Icebreaker Preliminary Design Document, which details a polar prospecting mission on Griffin, and the Mooncruiser system definition document.


Kevin Peterson, Chief Technology Officer. Kevin Peterson has fielded a dozen autonomous systems, including autonomous UXO survey, high-speed desert and urban driving, construction, and naval systems. Peterson was the technical lead for Carnegie Mellon’s DARPA Grand Challenge teams. At Astrobotic, Peterson leads 5 active NASA contracts for Autolanding for Robotic Precursor Missions; Reliable, Hardened GPS-Denied Navigation and Landing; Resource Aware Planning for Shadowed and Uncertain Domains; Long-Range Prediction of Non-Geometric Terrain Hazards for Reliable Planetary Rover Traverse; and Non-Geometric Terrain Sensing for Autonomous Excavation and Site Work.


Board of Directors


William “Red” Whittaker, Chairman and Chief Science Officer. Red Whittaker has developed dozens of successful systems in field robotics, space exploration, autonomous vehicles, mining, and agriculture. Whittaker has also led successful consortia and companies. He developed CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center from modest NASA seed funding; collaborated with Caterpillar to automate their entire product fleet and develop 11 patents on autonomous mining and excavating; and founded RedZone Robotics on government seed funding for nuclear cleanup. Whittaker won the DARPA Urban Challenge and spun out the resulting technology through a partnership with General Motors.


Paul C. O’Brien. Mr. O’Brien is the former CEO and chairman of the board of New England Telephone after having served as executive vice president at New York Telephone. Earlier in his career, he worked for GE and served in the US Air Force. Mr. O’Brien currently sits on a variety of boards of both private and public companies. He holds a BS in electrical engineering from Manhattan College and an MBA from New York University. He has received three honorary doctorates.

Paul C. O’Brien of Boston brings more than 40 years experience in the telecommunications and information technology industry with an extensive background in information systems, project management, technical marketing. Mr. O’Brien is the president of the O’Brien Group, a technology investment and consulting firm. He also serves as the president of Pan-Asia Development, an investment firm pursuing opportunities in Asia.


William F. Readdy. Mr. Readdy of McLean, Va., is founder and managing partner of Discovery Partners International, specializing in global space development and aerospace program management. He has three decades of experience across a broad range of aerospace specialties. He previously served as the NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations, an astronaut, a Naval aviator and a test pilot.  As a veteran pilot astronaut, Mr. Readdy made three space flights, STS-42 (January 22-30, 1992), STS-51 (September 12-22, 1993) and STS-79 (September 16-26, 1996).

At NASA, his assignments included serving as the agency’s director of operations at Star City, Russia, where astronauts and cosmonauts train for launch aboard Russian Soyuz vehicles. He served at NASA as Associate Administrator for Space Operations with more than $6 billion budget authority, and oversight for the Kennedy, Johnson, Marshall and Stennis Space Centers as well as programmatic oversight for International Space Station (ISS), Space Shuttle, Space Communications and Space Launch Vehicles. Mr. Readdy is the recipient of the Presidential Rank award, two NASA Distinguished Service medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross and holds the rank of Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He is also an academician of the International Academy of Astronautics. Readdy serves on the board of directors of Spacehab/Astrotech, Corp. and also serves as chairman of the board of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.

Vishwas Karve. Mr. Karve is Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, for International Rectifier Corp., an investor in Astrobotic Technology. IR is a world leader in advanced power management technology, from digital, analog and mixed-signal ICs to advanced circuit devices, power systems and components. The world’s leading manufacturers of computers, appliances, automobiles, consumer electronics and defense systems rely on IR technology to drive the performance and efficiency of their products.


profile pictureDean Thompson. Dean is a Principal Architect at LinkedIn. He leads engineering for the LinkedIn for Good team, which uses LinkedIn as a platform to drive positive social impact. Dean has spent his career founding and leading Pittsburgh based-startups: mSpoke (acquired by LinkedIn), Transarc (acquired by IBM); e-Transport (acquired by Descartes); and Premier Health Exchange (acquired by Medibuy).


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