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Making the Most of Rocket-Powered Suborbital Tests


  • Christine Escobar, Space Lab Technologies
  • Paula Adhikari, Blue Origin
  • Ryan Dibley, Flight Opportunities Campaign Manager

December 1, 2021 


Testing technologies on suborbital rocket-powered vehicles requires careful planning and clear communication with your flight provider, but this valuable tool for technology maturation is accessible to all researchers regardless of suborbital flight test experience. This session will outline how the flight provider, principal investigator, and Flight Opportunities team work together to make tests on rocket-powered vehicles successful. The panel will also share why suborbital testing is beneficial for researchers across disciplines.

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Speaker Bios

Christine Escobar co-founded Space Lab® in 2016, with the mission of advancing human space exploration through research and technology development. Christine is an ecologist and aerospace systems engineer with expertise in space agriculture, bioastronautics (the study and support of life in space), information systems, and robust design.

As Space Lab’s Vice President, Christine leads business administration, business development, and quality assurance. She provides systems engineering and systems analysis support for all of Space Lab’s projects. She manages several R&D projects, including µG-LilyPond™, a floating plant production system for microgravity and MarsOasis®, a hydroponic Martian greenhouse.

Christine conducts space botany research and is currently investigating duckweed (family Lemnaceae) for use as a nutritious space crop. Christine also conducts PhD research in the robust design of controlled ecological life support systems at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Before co-founding Space Lab®, she was a Mission Manager for the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract II (NSROC II), where she led teams of engineers and technicians through the life cycle of fourteen sounding rocket missions. As a Systems Engineer for NSROC I, she applied her skills in data analysis to attitude determination and flight vibration data. Prior to working in the space industry, Christine was a leader in public health emergency preparedness, providing planning, training, and assessment of readiness for public health disasters and bioterrorism.  

Paula Adhikari is a Payload Integration Manager supporting New Shepard at Blue Origin. She has previously supported systems and integration engineering for New Shepard focusing on its propulsion module. Before joining Blue Origin, Paula worked as an Aerodynamics Engineer at Boeing and a Project Systems Engineering Intern for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering.

With almost two decades of experience at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Ryan Dibley brings a rich technical background to his role as campaign manager for the Flight Opportunities program. Ryan manages flight campaigns for technology payloads flying with Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Masten Space Systems, and Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G). Prior to this role, he served as chief engineer on the subscale towed glider air launch system at NASA Armstrong, and much of his earlier experience involved flight tests of different varieties.