Chris Kemp

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Chris C. Kemp
Official NASA portrait
Born1977 (age 46–47)
TitleFounder, Chairman and CEO

Chris C. Kemp (born 1977) is an American entrepreneur who, along with Dr. Adam London,[1] founded Astra, a space technology firm based in California, in 2016.[2] He served as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California,[3] and as NASA's first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for IT.[4] While at NASA, Kemp partnered with Google and Microsoft and helped in the creation of Google Moon and Mars.[5] He worked with the White House to develop the cloud computing strategy for the United States Federal Government and co-founded OpenStack, an open-source software project for cloud computing.[6][7] He was also one of the founders of Nebula, a company that from 2011 to 2015, worked to commercialise the technology.[8]

Early life[edit]

Kemp was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1977. He held his first job at 15 years old, working for Apple as a part of its Apple Dealer Network. Kemp studied Computer engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville before leaving to found his first company, Netran.[9]

Business career[edit]

Kemp founded Netran, an online grocery shopping service for Kroger, while concurrently enrolled at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Kemp held the titles of CEO and President at Netran from 1997 until 2000.[10] Following Netran, Kemp joined as Chief Architect.[10] In 2002, after a personal attempt to book a beach house rental online, Kemp co-founded Escapia, a property management platform.[11][12] He served as the CEO from 2002 until 2006. Escapia was later sold to HomeAway in 2010.[13]


Kemp joined NASA in 2006 as a director of strategic business development at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley where he helped forge a partnership with Google.[14][15][16] In 2007, he was appointed Chief Information Officer (CIO),[17] making him responsible for most of the IT infrastructure at NASA Ames (networks, data centers, systems, etc.) and several NASA-wide services, including the NASA Security Operations Center (SOC).[18] As CIO, Kemp established a partnership with Microsoft.[19]

Unlike traditional government procurements, where the government gave money to private companies, Kemp structured public-private partnerships with both Google and Microsoft that provided his team at NASA millions of dollars of funding to offset the costs of making several amounts of data available in Google Earth and Microsoft Worldwide Telescope. Kemp then assembled and led of a team of NASA contractors with the goal of enabling NASA to "leverage the web as a platform and take the lead in open, transparent and participatory space exploration and government".[20] The project to carry forward this goal at NASA Ames was called the Nebula Cloud Computing Pilot.[21][22]

Kemp's cloud project at NASA drew the attention of the Obama Administration. Vivek Kundra, the first federal CIO (Chief Information Officer), asked Kemp to host the unveiling of the United States Cloud Computing Strategy and to work on one of the federal government's first major cloud initiatives,,[23] a website that tracks all financial spending from the US Govt., Kemp and the Nebula team launched the site, which is still hosted on NASA's cloud infrastructure.[citation needed]

In March 2010, Kemp was appointed as the first NASA Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for information technology (IT) or Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Kemp was responsible for the agency's Enterprise Architecture division and for introducing new and emerging technologies into IT planning and implementation.[4][24] He was an outspoken advocate for the use of open-source software in the Federal Government.[25]

Kemp was responsible for the first open-source release under the Apache 2.0 license framework, the Nova cloud computing controller. As CTO, Kemp also pioneered the use of NASA's unique public-private partnership authority to introduce new technologies into NASA.

Rackspace discovered NASA's open-source code and contacted Kemp to determine if NASA was interested in partnering together to form a project called OpenStack. Launched in July 2010, OpenStack is an open-source cloud computing platform based on code from Kemp's team at NASA, in collaboration with Rackspace.[26]

In mid-2010, Kemp received the Federal Computer Week "Federal 100" and CIO Magazine's "CIO 100" awards for his work as Chief Information Officer (CIO) at NASA Ames Research Center in 2009.[27][28]

On March 14, 2011, Kemp announced his resignation as NASA's Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for IT.[29][30]


On March 25, 2011, Kemp incorporated Fourth Paradigm Development, Inc. with entrepreneur Steve O'Hara and former colleague Devin Carlen. It would later change its name to Nebula.[8]

Kemp held the CEO position for two years.[31] In September 2013, Kemp became the Chief Strategy Officer and brought in veteran Gordon Stitt to lead Nebula as a public company.[32] In April 2015, the company ceased operations.[33][34]


In October 2016, Kemp, together with Adam London, founded the startup Astra with the aim to develop a small-lift orbital rocket[35] that will “carry critical technology to improve life on Earth from space”.[36] In July 2021, Kemp and London stated that their goal is to reach daily rocket launches.[37] Astra became the fastest company in history to demonstrate orbital launch capability with its launch in Kodiak, Alaska, breaking SpaceX’s record of six years, four months.[38][39][40] Astra began building a 250,000 square feet (0.02 km2) factory at its headquarters in Alameda, CA.[41] Astra became the first space launch company to list in Nasdaq on July 1, 2021, at a valuation of $2.1 billion.[42][43]


  1. ^ "Dr. Adam London | Astra". Retrieved March 9, 2023.
  2. ^ "Astra's first commercial launch fails to reach orbit". TechCrunch. August 30, 2021.
  3. ^ "Chris C. Kemp, Chief Information Officer, NASA Ames Research Center". December 14, 2009.
  4. ^ a b "NASA Names Chief Technology Officer for IT". NASA. May 6, 2010. Archived from the original on November 8, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  5. ^ "With NASA, Google Expands it Realm to the Moon and Mars". NYT. December 19, 2006.
  6. ^ "Chris Kemp Steps Down as CEO of Nebula, The OpenStack Startup". TechCrunch. September 13, 2013.
  7. ^ "The OpenStack Foundation becomes the Open Infrastructure Foundation". TechCrunch. October 19, 2020.
  8. ^ a b "About Nebula, Inc. Management Team". Nebula, Inc. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014.
  9. ^ "Silicon Valley 40 Under 40: Chris C. Kemp, Nebula". Bizjournals. December 3, 2013.
  10. ^ a b "34-year-old startup vet Chris Kemp is back, with Nebula — taking risks and not mincing words". Geekwire. December 14, 2011.
  11. ^ "Silicon Valley 40 under 40: Chris C. Kemp, Nebula". Bizjournals. December 3, 2013.
  12. ^ "HomeAway Software Consolidates Software Systems: Migrating V12 and YesBookIt Users to Escapia". VRM Intel. July 31, 2019. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  13. ^ "Mystery Buyer of Escapia Revealed; Yep, It's HomeAway". Bizjournals. October 20, 2010.
  14. ^ "NASA and Google to Bring Space Exploration Down to Earth". NASA. December 18, 2006. Archived from the original on August 23, 2007. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  15. ^ Kaufman, Marc (December 19, 2006). "NASA Launches Google Collaboration". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  16. ^ Kopytoff, Verne (November 15, 2007). "NASA, Google Partnership Still Taking Flight". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  17. ^ Kemp, Chris (January 27, 2009). "Let's Start A Conversation About NASA's Future On The Web". NASA. Archived from the original on March 14, 2011. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  18. ^ "Chris C. Kemp, Chief Information Officer, NASA Ames Research Center". Space News. December 14, 2009. Archived from the original on February 2, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  19. ^ "NASA and Microsoft to Make Universe of Data Available to the Public". NASA. March 24, 2009. Archived from the original on April 13, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  20. ^ "Why Make A Universe of Data Available To The Public?". NASA. March 24, 2009. Archived from the original on August 20, 2012. Retrieved March 1, 2012.
  21. ^ "NASA Launches 'Nebula' Compute Cloud". Information Week. May 22, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  22. ^ "NASA Blazing a Trail for Federal Cloud Computing". Space News. September 21, 2009. Archived from the original on February 2, 2013. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  23. ^ "". Retrieved March 9, 2023.
  24. ^ "NASA Cloud Guru Named CTO For IT". Information Week. April 20, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  25. ^ "Open source is NASA's next frontier". Federal Computer Week. May 6, 2010. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  26. ^ Metz, Cade. "Ex-NASA Tech Boss Crams Cloud Into Box". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  27. ^ Yasin, Rutrell (March 22, 2010). "Federal 100: Chris Kemp". Federal Computer Week. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  28. ^ "NASA Chief Technology Officer for IT Honored by CIO Magazine". NASA. June 8, 2010. Archived from the original on April 5, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  29. ^ "Today I announce my resignation as NASA's Chief Technology Officer for IT". Archived from the original on March 18, 2011. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
  30. ^ Fretwell, Luke (March 15, 2011). "NASA IT CTO Kemp leaving 'to find a garage in Palo Alto to do what I love'". Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  31. ^ "Former NASA CTO steps aside at his OpenStack-focused startup". FCW. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  32. ^ Kerner, Sean Michael (April 3, 2015). "OpenStack Innovator Nebula Ceases Operations: Is OpenStack in Trouble?". eWEEK. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  33. ^ Butler, Brandon (April 2, 2015). "OpenStack company Nebula shutters". Network World.
  34. ^ "Former NASA tech chief takes startups under his wing". Fortune.
  35. ^ The future of Astra with Founder and CEO Chris Kemp,, 5 June 2021, retrieved 6 June 2021.
  36. ^ "Astra's 100-year plan: Q&A with CEO Chris Kemp". SpaceNews. March 1, 2021. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  37. ^ Sheetz, Michael (July 1, 2021). "Astra stock rises on Nasdaq debut, as space company aims to launch rockets daily". CNBC. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  38. ^ "At Astra, failure is an option". February 6, 2020. Archived from the original on February 6, 2020.
  39. ^ Sheetz, Michael (December 15, 2020). "Rocket startup Astra reaches space for the first time with second launch attempt from Alaska". CNBC. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  40. ^ "Launch startup Astra's rocket reaches space – TechCrunch". TechCrunch. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  41. ^ Sheetz, Michael (May 2, 2021). "Take a look inside Astra's rocket factory, as the company prepares to go public". CNBC. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  42. ^ Mike Wall (June 30, 2021). "Astra goes public, becomes 1st launch company to trade on Nasdaq". Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  43. ^ "Astra Space now publically [sic] tradable on the NASDAQ". Space Explored. July 1, 2021. Retrieved December 20, 2021.