Meet the Most Interesting Space CEO You’re Not Following on Twitter

Tory Bruno is the candid new voice of United Launch Alliance

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Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance

 Sure, you've heard of (and might even be Twitter-stalking) Elon Musk and Richard Branson, but you're likely not familiar with one of their most influential peers.

Tory Bruno is CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The combined effort was created in 2006 and has since essentially been the go-to contractor when the U.S. government needs to get something into space.

Long seen as a de facto monopoly for U.S. space launches, ULA has been facing increased competitive pressure from SpaceX in recent years, resulting in a 2014 restructuring that brought in Bruno (a 30-year Lockheed veteran) to help reduce launch costs by as much as 50 percent.

While SpaceX and Virgin Galactic get most of the public's attention when it comes to privatized space flight, Bruno is working to raise the image of the more established ULA. One of the most interesting and visible ways he's doing that is by getting personally involved in Twitter.

Bruno's tweets range from real-time launch updates and proud recaps of successful missions to taking jabs at competitors and chatting cordially with an account called @FakeToryBruno.

Before we get to our brief chat with Bruno about the potential he sees in social media, here are a few of our favorite Twitter moments:

We reached out to Bruno to find out why he'd gotten onto Twitter and what he's thought of the experience and benefits so far. Here's our quick Q&A:

Adweek: You look like you're having a lot of fun on Twitter. You don't seem to mind engaging critics or competitors, and you're surprisingly sassy for an aerospace exec. What was your goal in getting on Twitter? Has that goal evolved as you've gotten more active?

Tory Bruno: I am a newcomer to social media. I find this medium very exciting. It has the potential to reach so many people almost instantly. My goals were simply to let the space enthusiast community become aware that this great company, the world's premier launch provider, ULA, was out there. My goal has evolved to also giving my employees a voice. We have a lot to say about the future of space.

What value do you think it brings to ULA to have both an official Twitter feed (@ulalaunch) and your account as CEO? Was it your idea to get on Twitter personally?

Yes, it was my idea to get on Twitter with a personal account. I have lots of enthusiastic, brilliant employees. As we began to give them this opportunity, I saw that I needed to get out there and model the way. Leaders go first, and by having both company and personal Twitter feeds, I am able to apply a personal flavor to events and provide a real person that followers can connect with.

Since the VSS Enterprise's crash, the private space race began to feel a lot more serious and weighty. How can space execs active in social media balance the fun and excitement of this new era of exploration while also reflecting how much is a stake with these launches?

We are on the very beginning of a great adventure where humankind will find a destiny beyond our planet. As with any great human journey, it will be a high-stakes endeavor, fraught with enormous risks and profound opportunity. Space execs can help articulate a vision of what's possible, creating excitement and inspiration, while simultaneously reminding the public of just how hard space is. Every rocket launch is an act of defiance, overcoming physics with unimaginable power outside normal human experience. Those of us who have spent our lives in this world are uniquely able to communicate it.

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."
Publish date: January 21, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT