Rocket launch company Astra poaches elite Apple Car team member for chief engineer role

Today California-based small satellite launcher Astra announced that Benjamin Lyon is joining their team as their new Chief Engineer. Lyon leaves his position as Apple’s Senior Director of the Special Projects Group, the team that brought the company many of its greatest innovations. According to Bloomberg, Lyon most recently worked on Apple’s car team.

Astra is a startup attempting to bring cheap and quick launches of CubeSats, or satellites about the size of a shoebox, to the industry. In December last year, Astra launched Rocket 3.2 from their spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska and successfully passed the Kármán Line to enter space for the first time.

Lyon has touched almost every product that has Apple made in his nearly two decade long career at the company. He helped change the image of what a phone looks like and does with the iPhone. Now he lead engineering to create rockets at scale for Astra.

TechCrunch interviewed Lyon about his move from Apple to the rocket startup Astra:

“When I’ve looked at what to do next at Apple, it has always been this combination of ‘What is the most impactful thing that I can do for humanity?’ – the iPhone was very much one of these,” Lyon told me in an interview. “Phones were awful [at the time], and if we could fundamentally come up with a new interface, that would completely change how people interact with devices.”

“Astra me feels very, very much like redefining what it means for a phone to be smart,” Lyon said. “I think the Astra vision is this magical combination of fundamentally taking the rocket science out of space. How do you do that? Well, you better have a great foundation of a team, and a great foundation of core technologies that you can bring together in order to make a compelling series of products.”

“Astra presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apply my experience designing and manufacturing beautiful products to ignite a new wave of innovation in the space industry. Astra is incredibly well-positioned to enable a new generation of space services, and the possibilities for humanity are endless.”

Benjamin Lyon, Chief Engineer at Astra

Just recently Astra announced it will go public to help fund its ventures to bring daily launches to their spaceports. They have over 50 launches on their manifest already and it seems like this year is the year for Astra with another attempt coming up in the next few months. Astra’s Rocket 3.2 proved that they can get a payload into space successfully, with just small changes they expect to get their next payload into orbit around earth.

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