NASA Names Longtime Aerospace Industry Expert as New Chief Technologist

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With prior experience from companies like Blue Origin, A.C. Charania will take on the agencywide role to spearhead technology innovation.

NASA named A.C. Charania as its new chief technologist on Monday, where he will lead technology innovation for the agency.

The role is housed within the agency’s Office for Technology, Policy and Strategy—a relatively new office that came from the November 2021 merging of the Office of Strategic Engagements and Assessments and the Office of the Chief Technologist. Bhavya Lal, NASA associate administrator for technology, policy and strategy, served as acting chief technologist before Charania’s appointment. Charania is the first non-acting official to spearhead the new combined office and started working at NASA on Jan. 3, 2023. 

“Technology plays a vital role in every NASA mission. Making sure that we’re pursuing the best policy objectives allows this agency to continue to serve as a global leader in innovation,” Lal said in a NASA news release. “A.C. is an experienced leader in managing large, rapidly shifting technology portfolios. I am eager for him to apply his knowledge and enthusiasm at NASA.”

NASA’s chief technologist “aligns NASA’s agencywide technology investments with mission needs across six mission directorates and oversees technology collaboration with other federal agencies, the private sector and external stakeholders,” according to the announcement. In this role, Charania will serve as NASA Administrator Bill Nelson’s principal advisor on technology policy and programs at the agency’s D.C. headquarters. 

“The rate of advancement we seek in the 21st century is dependent upon selecting and maturing a portfolio of technologies into systems to execute our missions,” Charania said. “With this in mind, there are incredible opportunities in partnerships within and outside of NASA. I now look forward to the opportunity to work with the entire community to increase the rate of space and aviation progress.”

Prior to joining NASA, Charania was the vice president of product strategy at Reliable Robotics, which is working to have certified autonomous vehicles in commercial aviation. He previously worked at Blue Origin to support its lunar performance strategy, Blue Moon lunar lander program and several tech initiatives with NASA. He also worked at Virgin Galactic—now Virgin Orbit—in strategy and business development on the LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle program, and in management and tech roles at SpaceWorks Enterprises, including helping with startups. 

He led the establishment of the FastForward industry group, which focuses on “high-speed point-to-point transportation”; was a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts fellow; and was on the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group Commercial Advisory Board. He has degrees from Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.

On Monday, both Lal and Charania tweeted about the news and expressed their excitement at his appointment.