Virgin Galactic Propulsion VP Leaves for New Launch Company

firefly_space_systems_logoVirgin Galactic Vice President of Propulsion Thomas Markusic has left Richard Branson’s space tourism company for Firefly Space Systems, a start-up company developing a ground-based, small satellite launch vehicle.

Markusic had been at Virgin Galactic since May 2011. He headed up the company’s liquid propulsion program and oversaw the development of LauncherOne, a small satellite rocket that will be air launched from WhiteKnightTwo.

Firefly has its headquarters in Austin, Texas, and research and development operations in Hawthorne, Calif. Markusic’s former employer, SpaceX, has its operations in Hawthorne.

Markusic formerly served as director of SpaceX’s rocket engine test site in McGregor, Texas. After leaving SpaceX in April 2011, the Princeton University graduate spent two months as a senior systems engineer at Blue Origin prior to joining Virgin Galactic, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Markusic made some unwanted waves back in July 2010 when he gave a presentation at an AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference outlining SpaceX’s long-term development plans for rocket development and a deep-space transportation infrastructure.

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk later backed the company away from the presentation. Musk said Markusic “was throwing out a bunch of ideas for discussion” and that the deep space architecture involved “brainstorming ideas.”