Spaceflight Insider

XCOR co-founder Aleta Jackson dies

Agile Aero Team

Aleta Jackson DeLong, center, helped co-found XCOR aerospace in 1999. In 2015 she helped co-found Agile Aero. From left to right: Tony Busalacchi, Tim James, Aleta Jackson, Dan DeLong, and Jeff Greason. Photo Credit: Agile Aero

XCOR Aerospace co-founder Loretta “Aleta” Jackson DeLong died Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, from complications stemming from chemotherapy treatments in Midland, Texas. The aerospace pioneer was 68.

Aleta Jackson DeLong, co-founder of XCOR, died Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.

Aleta Jackson DeLong, co-founder of XCOR, died Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Photo Credit: XCOR Aerospace

DeLong began her career in the aerospace industry working with an engineering co-op from the Indiana Institute of Technology. There, she worked on Project Gemini as a draftswoman and assisted in installing instrumentation in the cramped two-person Gemini capsules.

After a brief enlistment with the United States Air Force, DeLong spent 10 years as a repair technician with Xerox. Never straying far from her passion for aerospace, she also worked as a secretary for the L-5 Society, an organization founded to promote space colonization.

DeLong later began working with General Daniel Graham on the DC-X project, but it was with XCOR that she made a lasting impression on the aerospace industry.

Founding XCOR with fellow Rotary Rocket compatriots Dan DeLong, Jeff Greason, and Doug Jones, Aleta helped guide XCOR’s early projects, and actually served as a flight-test engineer on the company’s Rocket Racer. Indeed, she wore just about every hat imaginable within the company, from office management to the production floor.

Throughout her 16 years at XCOR, she was considered by many to be the personality that held the company together as they worked toward completing the Lynx suborbital space plane, and on propulsion technology for United Launch Alliance.

Aleta and long-term partner Dan DeLong – along with fellow XCOR co-founder Jeff Greason – left XCOR in mid-2015 to start Agile Aero, a company focused on rapid development of aerodynamic spacecraft. Aleta and Dan DeLong were married earlier in 2016.

“Her diverse and rich history in and around the space industry as well as serving our great nation in uniform was truly special,” John Gibson, XCOR’s current CEO, said in a statement. “We at XCOR extend our thoughts and prayers to Dan DeLong and her entire family.”



Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting - and safer - career field. He's worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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