Tim Pickens, the team leader for the Rocket City Space Pioneers, is the chief propulsion engineer and commercial space advisor at Dynetics. Dynetics brought him on board in December 2009 as part of the purchase of the space company Pickens started, Orion Propulsion Inc. With his expertise and vision in the space industry, particularly in the commercial arena, Pickens is responsible for developing innovative space product solutions and expanding Dynetics’ commercial space business.
Pickens started and grew Orion to be a $6.4 million company with 40 employees within five years. Pickens worked in all areas of Orion to run a lean and innovative start-up. In 2009 David King, executive vice president at Dynetics and former director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, was quoted as saying: “Tim is one of the most creative, energetic and ‘lean thinking’ propulsion experts in the United States.”
Before founding Orion, Pickens worked for small hardware-rich aerospace companies in Huntsville, as well as serving as lead propulsion engineer at Scaled Composites on SpaceShipOne, winner of the $10 million X-Prize.
Pickens most recently worked as the CEO of Orion, as well as the program manager for the development of the reaction control thrusters for the Bigelow Aerospace Sundancer module. These thrusters operate combusting hydrogen and oxygen produced from waste byproducts, a technology that offers the state of the art in space-living recycling.
At Dynetics, Pickens continues to apply his lean philosophy to develop creative solutions and innovative partnerships to expand the company’s presence in the space sector and to provide responsive, low-cost products and services to meet customer needs. His 15+ years of experience in the aerospace industry, specializing in the design, fabrication and testing of propulsion hardware systems, has earned him a reputation as one of the industry’s leaders in these areas.
Pickens’ passion for rockets began as a small child in Huntsville and continued into his adult life as a serious hobby. He led multiple amateur rocket design efforts in his garage for community service and recreational clubs and worked as an independent aerospace consultant at night and on weekends. He had a long-time interest in studying applied engineering and science, but the desire to own and operate a space company would drive him to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
In addition to being a propulsion engineer, Pickens is an inventor, innovator and educator in his spare time. He has been featured in Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, The Daily Show, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and CNN online articles. Features include his serious company innovations, as well as his fun home hobby efforts such as rocket trucks, rocket bikes and suitcase rockets. He is currently building/testing a water/jet ski-powered jet pack belt that can be seen from time to time flying over Alabama lakes.