(June 15, 2020) AIAA Member Spotlight on Matthew Kuhns

Matthew Kuhns
Chief Engineer, Masten Space Systems, Inc.
I am a kid who never grew out of wanting to be an astronaut. Once I discovered you could build spaceships in addition to flying them, I was hooked. My father helped by teaching me about the planets and getting me a telescope when I was 10.
In high school my drafting teacher Mr Bartman taught me a lot of the fundamentals of engineering. He came from the SR-71 program and we were all suitably impressed. He provided me with a solid pencil and paper drafting and CAD foundation which let me get my first engineering job in college.
Education: University of Wisconsin – Madison, Engineering Mechanics 2008. Prof. Elder, Prof. Crone, and Prof. Lakes were a huge influence on helping me understand what it takes to be a good engineer.
Graduating in 2008 felt like the worst time to try to find a job in space, so I went into the aircraft industry.

  • PCC Airfoils – SMP Plant, Wickliffe, OH. SMP manufactures single crystal turbine blades and combustor components for jet engines.
  • General Atomics ASI, Adelanto, CA. Propulsion R&D for the Predator C Avenger & PWC 545BM jet engine.
  • Eaton Aerospace, Irvine, CA. Mechanical & Electrical lead for an interdisciplinary Advanced Technology team.

Masten gave me a chance to make the jump to space in 2015, and it has been a wild ride. Lots of testing, lots of rocket firings, and lots of amazing people. I started as a subsystem lead on Xephyr, Masten’s reusable VTVL small sat launcher for the DARPA XS-1 program.
The last few years have been so great for innovation and opportunities in the space industry, and I hope we can all weather the Covid-19 storm together. With so many launch vehicles available now, and more soon to be available, it’s really going to infuse the space economy with extra energy. Particularly in cis-lunar space, extremely optimistic that we as industry can find a way to develop a sustainable economy which can help drive a permanent lunar presence.
My current job with Masten is amazing, we work on building and flying rockets and now we are going to the moon. Working closely with NASA and their extremely skilled engineers is a continual source of inspiration. The projects we are working on will be able to increase performance and lower cost of propulsion and spacecraft hardware across the industry.

  • Chief Engineer, XL-1 Lunar Lander, NASA CLPS/Artemis
  • PI MOWS for Surviving the Lunar Night, NASA SBIR Phase I and II
  • PI PermiAM Transpiration Cooled Rocket Engines, NASA SBIR Phase I and II
  • PI Rocket Plume Deep Cratering Physics, NASA SBIR Phase I, II, and III
  • PI 25k Broadsword Tipping Point, NASA Tipping Point Program
  • NIAC Fellow: FAST Landing Pads for Artemis, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program
  • PI Artemis E-Pump Technology Demonstration Program, NASA
  • PI E-Pump Development for Landers, NASA MSFC CAN


  • High Wing Fuel Compensation System (Eaton) USPTO 62/233,660
  • Magnetically Aligned Fuel Valve (Eaton) USPTO US20170708121A1
  • Fluid System with Differential Pressure Control (Eaton) USPTO US62/442,624
  • Method for Predicting Sunset Vibrancy (Skyfire) USPTO 62/097,001
  • PermiAM: Porous AM Material for Rockets (Masten) USPTO US16/372,401

I also enjoy photographing rocket launches, both at Masten and at KSC/Vandenberg! My space photography has been published by Aviation Week, Spaceflight Insider, NASA, Spacenews, Planetary Society, and Microsoft. My broader work has been published in a few books and publications like National Geographic, have had shows in several LA area galleries.

Matthew Kuhns
For fun, Ice Sat II launch at Vandenberg
One of my landscape images

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