SpaceX Superstars: John L. Insprucker, Principal Integration Engineer

SpaceX always had the best launch broadcast standards in the industry. The company is trying to be as transparent as possible and making its launch webcasts accessible to general public. Over the years, we’ve met quite a few webcast hosts. For a rocket industry enthusiast, the cool thing about it is that all the hosts are not some professional presenters, but actual SpaceX engineers. The following meme shows most of the usual presenters in one image. It makes it pretty clear that one man is a fan-favorite.

Here’s what some fans think about SpaceX webcast presenters (Credit: /u/Venom_moneV)

That man is John Insprucker, retired US Air Force Colonel. Insprucker was born on October 7, 1956, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Then he chose a career in the Air Force. In 1978, at the age of 22, after finishing studies at the University of Michigan, John earned the rank of reserve officer. His entire career was related to rockets and everything around them. Interestingly, he served for 5 years at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California (VAFB), even on the SLC-4 pads that are currently being leased to SpaceX. His scope of experience includes advanced space systems planning, ground equipment development and design, systems engineering, rocket assembly and testing. John is therefore an experienced military officer who devoted his entire professional life to rocketry.

Insprucker began his service at VAFB in 1980 as a pad, payload and rocket technician. He worked on the SLC-4 pad as a countdown controller. During the five years of service, he participated in 17 successful launches of the Titan rockets. In 1985, he joined the Secretary of the Air Force’s Special Project Office as head of the Spacecraft Attitude Control Division. He successfully led this government project and also participated in the development of flight software for reconnaissance satellites. One example of John’s successful career path at Vandenberg is his award for the rescue of an nationally critical satellite after the failure of its attitude control system.

In 1991, John married Nancy Rhoades, also a US Air Force officer.

John Insprucker in 2008 with Dragon pressure vessel (Credit: Rob Coppinger)

Later he served as Deputy Director for Space and Ground Systems Acquisition in the National Reconnaissance Office’s Signals Intelligence Low Orbiting Program. He led a team of 60 employees and 2000 contractors designing, manufacturing, testing and delivering a space system valued at $2.5 billion. He also worked as a program manager for a follow-on satellite valued at $700 million. Here he participated in the development of new ground systems for satellites for NRO and Titan rockets. As part of his work, he managed 11 successful launches of the Titan II and Titan IVB rockets between 2000 and 2002 as the deputy program manager and then between 2003 and 2004 as the Titan program manager.

He finished his career at the US Air Force as Director of the System Program Office (SPO) of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program and directed Delta IV and Atlas V rocket operations between December 13, 2003 and November 30, 2005. At that time he also served as flight director of Delta IV Heavy maiden flight, at the time the largest and most powerful rocket ever flown for the US Air Force. Overall, John participated in 30 successful rocket launches and 9 satellite launches.

On November 27, 2006, approximately a year after leaving the military, Insprucker joined SpaceX for a full-time job, extending his previous part-time contract. He was entrusted by Elon Musk with overseeing the development of Falcon 9. Elon stated that Insprucker would in no way be involved in selling launches or even lobbying for SpaceX with the US Air Force. He is currently working in the position of Principal Integration Engineer, which he mentions every time the launch webcast begins.

For many, John and his voice is synonymous with SpaceX live webcasts. One thing is for sure, Elon Musk surrounded himself at SpaceX with both young engineers and seasoned experts with vast experience in their fields. Let me conclude this article with the various answers from Reddit to the question ‘Why is John Insprucker everyone’s favorite host?’:

  • /u/Senno_Ecto_Gammat: Because he’s an absolute professional who has been in the business for decades. He’s there because he knows what he’s doing and because he earned it, not because he looks hip for the PR department.
  • /u/Jef-F: He delivers information in a very steady and comprehensive manner while making far fewer mistakes than other hosts.
  • /u/wiLD0: To me, it’s because he is extremely good at summarizing and conveying the huge amount of what he probably knows about what’s going on, at a level appropriate for a general American audience. That skill is rare among engineers I think. If something more off-script or esoteric happens during a launch, he’d probably be the one you can trust to explain it well.
  • /u/TheMightyKutKu: Because he is the most norminal one 🙂

Previous installments of the SpaceX Superstars series:

This article was originally published in Czech by Jiří Hadač and then translated into English by Vlastimil Švancara.

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