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AEROASTRO IN CONTEXT A new-technology venture in aerospace, Accion is not an outlier. According to a Dec. 9, 2015 report outlining MIT’s global entrepreneurial impact, alumni from the Institute are estimated to have launched more than 30,000 active companies that employ roughly 4.6 million people. These activities have generated nearly $2 trillion in annual revenues. Not surprisingly, among those alumni are many, like Obropta and Brikner, who come from AeroAstro. Report co-author Edward B. Roberts, the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology at MIT Sloan, explains that AeroAstro has played an important part in the Institute’s impressive overall economic impact, equivalent to the 9th largest GDP in the world. In fact, the AeroAstro innovation story is one he knows well, and personally.

Natalya Brikner (AeroAstro, PhD ’15) cofounded Accion Systems to develop advanced electric satellite propulsion systems based on technologies originated in AeroAstro’s Space Propulsion Lab. (Accion photograph)

In the early 1960s, while he was a PhD candidate in economics, Roberts was charged with helping a young NASA justify its funding to Congress. With funding and administrative support from Charles Stark Draper, then head of the AeroAstro, Roberts surveyed the MIT Instrumentation Lab and discovered 39 spinoff companies based on technologies developed at the lab.

Space: The Here and Now Frontier


MIT AeroAstro annual magazine 2015-2016Aeroastro 2015 16  

Annual magazine review of MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department research and educational initiatives.