Neil MILBURN was born in Middlesborough, England and is the British version of the Rocket Boys. His fascination with space and rocketry began with that same seminal moment, staring in to the skies of Northern England to try and spot Sputnik. His formative years were spent watching the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs from afar. Unfortunately, England was the wrong side of the “pond” to be involved in space and his hope of becoming an astronaut was further dashed when he discovered he could not join the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot because of poor eyesight. He subsequently graduated with an Honours Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Leeds and married the love of his life Susan in 1973. Neil then spent almost thirty years in private industry in a variety of roles – engineering, international sales and marketing - before he found his niche doing small engineering company start-ups and turnarounds. In this role he moved to the USA in 1982 and forgot to go home (but legal … a US citizen since 2006.) In 2003 he “semi-retired” and fulfilled a lifelong promise to payback a childhood debt to his mentors by taking up teaching. For his “day job” he currently teaches International Baccalaureate Physics in North Texas. That’s the day job!
In 2000, Neil was one of the four original founding members of the team that eventually became Armadillo Aerospace. What started as a short term project has now matured into one of the leading AltSpace companies in the world. The Armadillo eight man team has virtually unparalleled experience with rocket powered VTVPL (Vertical Take-Off, Vertical Powered Landing) vehicles and is the only company to have qualified for the NASA Centennial / Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge and flown vehicles at all three of the X-Prize Cups. Armadillo Aerospace also flew the very first flight under an FAA AST experimental permit and owns three of four permits ever issued. In the past year, Armadillo Aerospace has undertaken a project for the Airforce Research Laboratory, signed a partnership agreement with NASA JSC and has several other private sector contracts. However, Armadillo Aerospace’s original and still current goal is to change the paradigm for unmanned and manned access to sub-orbital and orbital space. A modular vehicle designed for the space tourism market is in fabrication and the initial test flights will take place this year. Armadillo anticipates making as many as 100 test flights in 2009, at both Spaceport Oklahoma and Spaceport America, with potentially the first commercial flight before the end of that same year. Neil is currently the VP & Program Manager for Armadillo Aerospace, responsible for business development, federal compliance, permitting & licensing and safety. He lives in Plano with his wife of thirty plus years, he has three sons, two daughters-in-law, and two grandchildren with another on back order for September. If Mike Griffin needs an extra pair of hands on a Shuttle mission, his number is on the Armadillo website, but regardless, Neil WILL fulfill a lifetime ambition and keep the dream alive by becoming an Armadillo Aerospace astronaut in the very, very near future.