Natalya Bailey: She’s Ruling Rocket Science

August 7 - On The Dot

FIRST THOUGHT: Live and Learn

Recently, while at a used bookstore, my friend picked up a 1960s workbook full of psychological questions. As he read one bizarre question after another, there was one in particular that sent him over the edge. It read, “Are you afraid of trying something new and not being good at it?” He scoffed, responding, “Who isn’t?” Everyone has at least a sliver of fear when it comes to learning new stuff. But if you think about it, literally everything we do, at one point, we didn’t know how to do. We learn how to hold our heads up, walk, talk, add two plus two—you name it. Today, if you’re feeling apprehensive about learning a new work task or taking on a new personal pursuit, take a moment to write down five things you’re pretty awesome at that took you some time to figure out. Recognizing your previous accomplishments may just open your eyes to how clever you really are.


When you’re learning new things, there’s always one smart aleck who busts out with, “Hey, it’s not rocket science!” But what if you actually are learning rocket science? I’m sure Mary Morgan, America’s first female rocket scientist, had to deal with her fair share of wisecracks and chauvinism in her day. But this whip-smart lady’s work certainly outshined any concerns about her gender. Mary—who did not have a college degree and raised four children while pursuing her career—invented a new and better type of rocket fuel intended to provide the Jupiter rocket with enough of a boost to put it into orbit. And in 1956, during the first test flight using Mary’s new fuel, her calculations proved correct. Less than a year later, Mary’s fuel was used to propel a Jupiter rocket carrying America’s first satellite—Explorer I—into orbit.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Natalya Bailey, Founder and CEO of Accion Systems

One out-of-this-world lady who’s shaking things up in the space game is Natalya Bailey, the founder and CEO of Accion Systems, which works to accelerate the exploration of space by bringing some pretty cool electric-propulsion technology to satellites of all sizes.

Standing on the shoulders of women space pioneers like Mary Morgan, Natalya recognizes the key to getting anything into space is thrust. By employing ion-engine technology, Accion Systems is able to remove all the heavy stuff from satellites, like pressurized tanks, chambers and bulky valves, thereby making satellites lighter, more powerful and more efficient. And thanks to Accion Systems’ low-cost, hands-off batch-manufacturing processes, these advanced ion engines can be manufactured hundreds of units at a time.

So, just how did Natalya become an enterprising rocket scientist and the CEO of her own company before the age of 30? It all started in her hometown in Northwest Oregon, where she’d gaze at the stars, dreaming about space, science and aliens. Later, after earning her Ph.D. from MIT while working at the university’s Space Propulsion Lab, this brainy and adventurous entrepreneur launched her career in rocket science, landed more than $10 million in venture-capital funding to get her company off the ground and even inked a $6.5 million deal with the U.S. Department of Defense involving Accion Systems’ technology.

Natalya recognizes the many hurdles she had to leap to become successful. As a young, female rocket scientist, she says she is exposed to “sexism and ageism and other -isms every day,” but she combats all that by mentoring other up-and-comers, volunteering with after-school STEM programs. It’s all about exposing young women to the sciences early in their lives so they too can shoot for the moon!


All right, shooting stars, let’s finish today’s meteor of inspiration with a quote from inspiring Challenger astronaut and teacher Christa McAuliffe, who said:

“Reach for it. Push yourself as far as you can!”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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