Another SpaceX investor joined Donald Trump’s team of Silicon Valley businessmen this week and is helping to build the president-elect’s cabinet and team of advisors.
Trae Stephens joined Peter Thiel as the second member of the San Francisco-based Founders Fund to join Trump’s “landing team” covering the Pentagon and Defense Department, according to Space News.
Stephens is a principal in Thiel’s venture capital fund, one of the first firms to invest in SpaceX with a $20 million outlay in 2008; it also participated in the $50 million round in 2010 and the $1 billion round in 2015.
Although Stephens won’t be working for Trump once he takes office, he’s part of the team tasked with shaping administration policy and vetting Defense Department staff, according to Bloomberg.
As part of his position at the Founders Fund, Stephens works with startups that do business with the government, according to his biography on the fund’s website.
“Previously, Trae was an early employee at Palantir Technologies, where he led teams focused on growth in the intelligence/defense space as well as international expansion.”
Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and longtime Trump supporter, is also a member of president-elect’s transition team and has gone on record saying he hopes Donald will spend more efficiently on defense programs.
The Silicon Valley businessman was one of the only California entrepreneurs to back Trump during the presidential race, even going so far as to donate some $1.25 million to the campaign.
SpaceX has fought long and hard to win Defense Department business; an epic adventure that brought it into competition with the larger and more well-established United Launch Alliance, a Boeing and Lockheed Martin partnership.
In 2014, SpaceX launched a lawsuit against the Air Force asking the service to open national security launch missions to competition and in 2015, the company won certification of its Falcon 9 rockets, according to Space News.
“Under the agreement, the Air Force will work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the certification process in an efficient and expedient manner. The Air Force also has expanded the number of competitive opportunities for launch services under the EELV program while honoring existing contractual obligations.”
Elon Musk’s space travel company has made a point of developing customers from the private sector, the Air Force, and NASA.
SpaceX just won another contract from NASA and is now tasked with launching the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite, which will make the first-ever survey of Earth’s surface water.
So far, the Trump transition team hasn’t announced any landing team members for the space agency, but a rough outline published by the president-elect before the election shows he will most likely push for an increased public-private partnership in space.
It’s unclear what form that partnership will ultimately take, but initial reports suggest the possibilities could include ditching NASA’s own spacecraft in favor of contracting out government work to private contractors like SpaceX.
The private commercial space industry is also crying out for more regulations to govern the emerging economy in orbit, which could fall to the Trump administration to sort out.
The military, our international partners, and the private space industry are all asking for greater regulation in space, the removal of space debris orbiting the planet, and the implementation of best practices for the emerging cis-lunar economy.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence will head a reconstituted National Space Council, which hasn’t operated since the administration of George H.W. Bush and will be charged with eliminating redundancies in the American space program.
Meanwhile, some Californians continue to protest Trump’s election to the White House and have collected enough signatures to put a secession referendum on the ballot.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]