Sponsors

Advertisement

People and Companies Women's Inspired Leadership

Spirit of Progress: Carol Craig

Carol Craig of Sidus Space

Carol Craig

Founder and CEO

Craig Technologies and Sidus Space

Photography by Jason Hook

“Sometimes you just have to jump, and build your wings on the way down. I built my wings just in time to avoid crashing.” — Carol Craig

The world will never know what Carol Craig’s career would’ve been if she hadn’t tweaked her knee when she was a naval flight officer. And neither will space, thankfully. 

Craig was going through prisoner-of-war training as part of her quest to become one of the first women in the U.S. Navy to be authorized to fly combat aircraft when she had to stop and have knee surgery. Disqualified from flying, she left as a service-disabled veteran. Since then, the self-described “astropreneur” has been making her mark in a completely different way instead: by helping lead the commercialization of space.  

Craig remembers the challenges of trying to build her career as a military spouse after her time in the service, relocating with each new assignment of her husband, John, a Navy F-18 pilot. An engineer by trade, she was working in a job in Jacksonville when it was time to relocate to Virginia Beach. Luckily, just three months earlier, one of her co-workers had suggested she set up her own company and become a consultant. 

She has built a name for herself over the past 23 years with Craig Technologies, a Cape Canaveral-based aerospace and defense contracting company she founded with $150 in 1999 as a single-person consultancy. The company has produced several spinoffs, and together her organizations now employ almost 300 people.  

In her latest achievement, her space-as-a-service satellite company, Sidus Space, became the first female-founded space company to go public, commencing trading on the Nasdaq on December 14, 2021, under the symbol SIDU.  

Sidus Space

Named for a Latin word meaning “resembling a star or constellation,” Sidus Space was previously called Craig Technologies Aerospace Solutions. Craig jokes that all the names she has come up with for her companies are long enough to need acronyms, so she asked one of her business development employees to come up with a better name for this one, and his suggestion stuck.    

Sidus Space has received federal and global telecommunication approvals to launch a 100-satellite constellation within the next few years. Each satellite is designed to carry multiple payloads that can be swapped out for others, and the plan is to sell data from the various payloads — both customer-directed and Sidus-chosen. Applications can range from maritime searches for missing boaters to traffic control to any kind of data gathering that would benefit from an eye in the sky.  

“We’re manufacturing our own satellites in-house here in Cape Canaveral,” Craig says. “They are partially 3-D manufactured, so they are more efficient to produce. They are lighter so we can carry more customer payloads at a lower cost.”

“Every bit of data we gather on Earth can be gathered from space faster, cheaper and more accurately. If we do that, we’re helping preserve our planet. The more we can move off of our planet, the better.” 

Craig describes space-based data as being at a crossroads, just like the world was in the 1990s with the internet. “Initially it was used by academics, then government, then commercial companies, and then consumers, and it became ubiquitous.,” she says. “I believe space-based data is going to be adopted exactly the same way.”

“Our tagline is ‘Bringing space down to Earth.’ Individuals should be able to access space, whether that means having access to data or being able to send up their own technology.”  

For instance, smaller nations that don’t have the technology or funding to send equipment into space can partner with companies like Sidus Space, she says. “We shouldn’t have to have 40,000 satellites floating around up there. So tell me what you want, I’ll find the technology and a sensor that is going to get you that data, and I’ll put it on my satellite. I’ll handle all the rest and give you your data at the end of the day.” 

Full Throttle

Craig talks about how her company has gone full throttle to invest in the community, even during some scary times.  

One of those times was personal. The couple moved to Brevard County, where they had bought investment property, after their son Danny was born with the rare genetic disorder Prader-Willi Syndrome in 2001. Craig’s husband decided to retire from the Navy, join the reserves and fly commercial aircraft so the family could be together more without moving. Craig founded the Danny Craig Foundation in 2010 to raise money for organizations that focus on children with special needs.  

Another scary time was professional. After the space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, the Space Coast community felt an overwhelming sense of loss that took a toll on the local economy. People lost jobs, which led them to spend less money, and there was a sense of trepidation everywhere. In this atmosphere, Craig’s company’s manufacturing division that was a subcontractor to NASA and the Department of Defense (DoD) put in a bid to take over the equipment that was in the NASA shuttle logistics depot. 

“Be careful what you wish for. They picked us,” Craig says. “At that moment, for my team and me, there was this realization of ‘OK, we can actually impact this community by filling in the gap.’

“It was a ghost town at the time. People were losing jobs, our friends were leaving the area, our kids were saying goodbye to their friends. It was pretty bad.” 

Her company rented the 160,000-square-foot facility that was the former depot, took over the equipment, and kept on 30 to 40 people — especially tough because Craig Technologies also had people on the payroll for a contract at Kennedy Space Center.   

“We were trying to grow the depot facility, and there was a point where I recognized that the NASA transition to the next program was not going as fast as we would like,” she says. “I was not externally funded, so trying to grow a manufacturing facility that was suffering losses was killing me. Finally, I made the decision to downsize or ‘right-size’ based on the current contracting environment.  

“It took a long time to get where we are today, but being able to hang in there and see the investment and the money that we put into this community and these companies finally come to fruition is exciting. Sometimes it’s not about being in the right place at the right time but about treading water so you will be in the right place at the right now 

“Brevard County, right now, is in a different place than it was then. It’s much more diverse. NASA is still strong. But now we’ve got commercial space, we’ve got satellites we’ve got rockets, we’ve got DoD, we’ve got intel, and we’ve got aviation.

“What happened when the shuttle program retired … I don’t think we’ll ever see that happen again in Brevard County.” 

A Long Way

Craig has come a long way from the little girl who was adopted as an infant born of Cuban descent and raised in a rural Illinois community. She grew up wanting to be “everything,” she says — she had so many interests that she couldn’t choose just one. “And I had a mother who told me I could be anything.”   

Craig has received numerous corporate and individual awards over the years. One of them was the 2012 Technology Executive of the Year Congressional Medal of Merit from U.S. Congressman Bill Posey. She has also served in leadership roles on boards that include the Economic Development Commission of the Space Coast, CareerSource Brevard, United Way of Brevard County, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Florida 

Today her companies work in the industry among private space firms led by billionaires Elon Musk, the Tesla car manufacturer who owns SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon as well as the Blue Origin space company. When people compare her to them, she says she identifies more with Richard Branson, the London-based founder of Virgin Airlines and space tourism company Virgin Galactic. The eccentric serial entrepreneur is known for spending time at his private retreat in the British Virgin Islands that guests can book for $128,000 a night. 

“There’s something about him and the way he diversifies his businesses that I admire,” Craig says. “Plus I love the islands. If I can own my own island, I’ll know that I’ve arrived.” 


Want More i4? Subscribe to the Magazine.

About the author

Diane Sears

A career journalist, author and advocate for business growth, Diane Sears is the CEO, editor and publisher of i4 Business. She is also the founder and president of DiVerse Media LLC, which has handled content marketing projects including nonfiction books, white papers, executive speeches and scripts since 2000. She is co-founder of the nonprofit Go for the Greens Foundation, which helps connect women-owned and minority-owned business owners with growth opportunities internationally.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

0