#SpotlightSaturday Board of Directors: Meet Casey Kelby

Casey Kelby joined Higher Orbits in 2018 as a guest speaker and judge at our Go For Launch! Loudoun County event in Reston, VA. Since then, Casey has held various roles as an Advisory Board Member, a guest educator for some of our Space at Home Kits, and served as a Board of Directors member since 2021. Casey Kelby is a Business Development Manager at NanoAvionics, a nano-satellite bus manufacturer and mission integrator.

Last week, I got to chat with Casey and hear all about what gets her #SpaceInspired.

Katy Thompson: What Inspires you to serve as a Board of Directors Member for Higher Orbits?

Casey Kelby: I would say for me it is the opportunity to make students aware that this a potential industry that they can work in. When I was growing up, I kind of stumbled my way in. I am a first-generation college graduate within my immediate family, so for me, if Higher Orbits had existed when I was a kid, I would have been so much more prepared and I would have known what I wanted to do right away.

KT: Totally. It is a very unique opportunity.

I noticed that you support other student STEM organizations such as SEDS. Can you talk about that experience and how that has impacted your outlook as a Board of Directors member?

CK: SEDS is the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. I was a founding member of SEDS at Virginia Tech, and that organization is still going strong which is exciting to see.

SEDS kind of opened my eyes to the fact that space does not have to be just engineering. I would say that has impacted my career and definitely impacted the way I interact with students because not every student is college bound. Not every student is going to be an engineer or scientist. We still need accountants, communicators, and artists in the space industry. So, I would say in a lot of ways it has impacted how I interact with students and how I talk about the industry because I know it’s not just science and engineering.

KT: I think that is such a critical component about our program. Our goal isn’t for every student to walk away from our events saying, ‘I want to be an engineer.’ We just want to help develop well-rounded students.

I know you have previously judged a GFL! and ran activities for Space at Home. Can you share a little bit about having the opportunity to work one-on-one with our students?

CK: I attended Go For Launch! Loudoun County 2018, and those students were super sharp. Just watching them come up with experiment ideas… I mean I could never think out of the box like they do. They were pulling bacteria, bugs, I mean all over the place. The sky was not the limit for them, and I thought that was really fascinating because as adults we get very in our head about people judging us for our ideas, and it was kind of refreshing to see that more ‘childlike approach’ for problem solving. It also had me reflecting a bit like, as much as they are learning from me, I could learn a lot from them too.

KT: Yeah, these students come up with the most incredible and creative ideas that they really do develop over the course of the program and our time with them. Even the questions they ask the instructors, it is cool to see where their brains are at.

This next question is my favorite… if shipping and packaging was not an issue, what three items would you bring with you if you were traveling to Mars tomorrow?


  1. Casey’s Dog Nova
    She would just look super cute in a tiny dog space suit…
  2. A sample piece of thermal insulation from the Apollo missions
    It is like bringing the beginning of our space program to that very moment on Mars…
  3. A Higher Orbits Otter
    My little office mascot!

Casey values student success and the ability for them to get excited about space in any industry. We are over the moon to have Casey a part of our organization and our Board of Directors!

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