MITRE and the space industry: Q&A with Kerry Buckley, vice president, Air and Space Forces

Are you interested in a career in the space industry? Kerry Buckley, vice president, Air and Space Forces, MITRE, talked to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority about MITRE’s projects in the space industry, why Northern Virginia is a great location for the company, the types of people the company hires, and aerospace education programs at area universities.

Buckley’s work at MITRE focuses on national security, developing solutions for Department of Defense agencies, the Intelligence Community, and the NIST Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. In this role, she sets strategy and priorities to ensure MITRE delivers technical capabilities and Air Force mission objectives. These include the Air Force’s critical needs in space warfighting, air operations, nuclear enterprise modernization, cyber operations, and joint lethality in contested environments.

FCEDA: What are MITRE’s operations and projects related to the space industry.

Buckley: Through public-private partnerships and federally funded R&D centers, MITRE works across government and in partnership with industry to tackle challenges to the safety, stability, and well-being of our nation. Our space efforts span numerous federal agencies with space missions and authorities, including but not limited to, the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, and NASA. As a trusted partner, MITRE applies unique technical expertise to drive whole-of-nation impact through our foundational space capabilities: Digital and Government Systems Engineering; Command, Control, Communications, Computers; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR); Technology and Policy for Air-Space Safety and Control; Cyber Resilience; and Position, Navigation and Timing.

FCEDA: What are the advantages of MITRE’s space programs being located in Virginia?

Buckley: MITRE has headquarters both in Bedford, Mass., and McLean (Tysons). In Virginia, the proximity to our nation’s capital and the federal government provides access to our sponsors, the government agencies whose missions we support. This is especially important as space missions across agencies evolve to address the growing space industry at the federal, commercial and economic level. We have entered a pivotal era that requires not only a whole-of-government approach, but a whole-of-nation perspective as well. The Washington metropolitan area is a leader in innovation, drives policy, and boasts a wealth of academic resources – all essential factors for advancing and preserving the space domain.

FCEDA: Why do you think Northern Virginia is a growing hub for space operations?

Buckley: Northern Virginia offers a wealth of benefits to space companies from innovative startups to well-established large companies. Proximity to our legislative bodies and the federal agencies is essential for all space companies given the rapid growth and dynamic expansion of the industry. The state of Virginia has a strong history of supporting space research and development dating back to the Apollo moon missions and extending into the current 2024 Artemis moon mission. Virginia’s prioritization of space research and development also has been demonstrated through the 1995 creation of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, a regional commitment to space advancements.

Plus, there are several exceptional universities in Virginia that offer space-specific programs and are developing the talent needed across the region to advance solutions to the industry’s most pressing space challenges.

(Photo courtesy of The MITRE Corporation.)

FCEDA: What type of people do you hire for your space work?

Buckley: At MITRE, we work to discover new possibilities, create unexpected opportunities, and lead in the advancement of cutting-edge technologies — all in the public interest. Our people represent the very best of our organization. They are game-changers and disruptors, poised to create positive impact, harnessing opportunities to solve complex problems, and proudly representing us as a powerful, dynamic force that makes the world a safer place. We’re looking for mission-oriented, purpose-driven people to help us grow our collective impact in the communities in which we work and live.

FCEDA: Does MITRE work with area universities to train and/or source talent?

Buckley: We work on research projects with the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, a coalition of five Virginia colleges and universities, NASA, state educational agencies, Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, and other institutions representing diverse aerospace education and research. The five universities include Hampton University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and William & Mary University. In 2021 we also published a report on space innovations that included the consortium, plus George Mason University. We recruit from Virginia universities as well as nationwide to find diverse and dynamic thinkers for MITRE.

Click here to find out more about careers at MITRE.