David S. Hollingsworth joined Hercules Inc., a producer of chemicals and aerospace products, in 1948 as a 20-year-old – fresh out of college. He quickly ascended the ranks, being named vice president of planning by 1979 and president of the specialty chemical unit in 1984.
Three years later, he took over the Delaware-based company for retiring chief executive Al Giacco. Soon after, he’d lead the company’s collaboration with Orbital Sciences Corporation on the Pegasus rocket, the world’s first privately developed space launch vehicle.
Like an oversized model rocket, Pegasus was designed as a low-cost way to put loads weighing less than 1,000 pounds into space, launching from the back of a B-52 bomber.
Under Hollingsworth’s leadership, Hercules developed Pegasus’ three Orion solid motors, which propelled the rocket’s first successful launch on April 5, 1990 from Dryden Flight Research Center in California. Since then, it has launched 42 missions, placing more than 80 satellites.