Matthew Travis is Chief Operating Officer at Aphelion Orbitals, Inc. Born in Bloomington-Normal, IL. Mr. Travis attended Griffin High School in Springfield, where he graduated in 1988 near the top of his class and member of the National Honor Society. Following high school, he enrolled at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, IL to study Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering. During this time, he became very active in the space community, being a member of the National Space Society, Planetary Society and Space Studies Institute.
He also co-founded the Experimental Spacecraft Society (ESS) alongside a group of aerospace professionals. The purpose of ESS was to design, build and fly low-cost, small suborbital launch vehicles and payloads. The first project was christened “Just Do It”, homage to the organization’s philosophy.
Mr. Travis continued studies at the U of I and in 1992 began studies under Computer Science in Engineering in the College of Engineering. It was during this time that he was employed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, working in the Software Development Group. One of his primary tasks was to oversee debugging of the NCSA Mosaic web browser on the Windows NT MIPS (not Intel) platform. Mosaic was the first widely used GUI-based web browser in the world, developed by the Software Development Group and which became the foundation for Netscape, Firefox, Internet Explorer and browsers developed since.
Mr. Travis took a short break from the University to work at a startup company in San Francisco which has since been purchased by and integrated into Microsoft. Following that, he returned to the University to complete studies.
Mr. Travis then worked at The Systems House in Des Plaines, IL leading the implementation of a Java and web-based B2B ecommerce platform for the company’s parent, U.S. Office Products.
In 2003, after the space shuttle Columbia accident, he took his experience and engineering background and founded the Aerospace Research & Engineering Systems Institute, Inc. (Ares Institute), at which he is the Executive Director.
Ares Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to promoting space exploration and STEM education through public outreach (via Zero-G News) and hands-on, real world engineering projects. Currently, the flagship project is LunarSail. LunarSail is a project to send a cubesat into lunar orbit utilizing solar sail propulsion and optical communications technologies. The project utilizes crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and volunteers who want to get meaningful experience building something that will actually fly in space.
Ares Institute also periodically sponsors internships and partnerships with educational institutions in the United States.
At the present time, Mr. Travis still dedicates time to Ares Institute. Mr. Travis joined Aphelion Orbitals, Inc. in early 2016 and assumed the COO role in 2017 when the company re-organized from being an LLC to a Corporation. As part of his duties, he is responsible for obtaining contracting eligibility with the Federal government, including NASA, National Science Foundation, GSA, etc. He also handles all corporate and legal paperwork, filings and the relationship with the company’s outside tax firm.
Mr. Travis is focused on the growth and success of Aphelion Orbitals, devoting most of his time to it as well as investing capital and equipment to the company in its early stage of development. As important as other tasks, he is also a mentor and guide for the young team, ensuring they stay focused on the proper priorities, answering technical questions and keep the team members moving in the right direction at the right pace without becoming a micro-manager or overriding the team’s design decisions except when necessary for technical reasons.