As a child, Antonio Elias dreamt of becoming an aeronautical engineer. After high school, he left to study in Spain, following in the footsteps of his father, a member of the Spanish Foreign Service.
Several years later, a “cultural mismatch” brought him back to the United States where he was – by some stroke of luck – accepted into MIT. “Obviously they didn’t understand the translation of my grades from the Spanish system to the U.S.,” he joked, “otherwise they would have never accepted me.”
But Elias proved he was MIT material, eventually snagging a research assistantship at the Draper Laboratory working on the end of the Apollo program and the Space Transportation System – later renamed the “Space Shuttle.” After MIT denied him tenure, Elias joined Orbital ATK where he led the technical team that designed and built the Pegasus rocket.
The vehicle, launched from beneath a NASA B-52 aircraft, opened the door for commercial spaceflight.