Joel Sercel

Dr. Joel Sercel is the CTO and CEO of Trans Astronautica Corporation. TransAstra is a NewSpace company dedicated to accelerating the process of human exploration and industrialization of cislunar space and near Earth asteroids. Funded by a combination of private sector investment plus NASA grants and contracts, TransAstra is building the technology to provide in-space transportation and related services with a fleet of reusable space tugs supplied by propellant derived from asteroid and lunar resources.

Dr. Sercel has over 30 years of NASA, industrial, other government agency, and academic experience and education all of which is directly related to space technology development and innovation. Sercel’s professional experience includes a 14 year career at JPL; 12 years teaching, researching, and advising graduate students at Caltech in the area of space systems engineering; two years as a senior government official serving as the Chief Systems engineer of a $22B Air Force communications satellite network (TSAT) leading a team of 122 systems engineers and several years as a private technology and management consultant

Joel conceived and initiated the NSTAR project (the first deep space solar electric propulsion system) and served as the first Principal Technologist of the NSTAR project. He presently has patents pending in the area of space resources technology and is known as the inventor of Optical Mining™, a practical method for extracting the ingredients in rocket propellant from asteroids. 

Dr. Sercel is a five time NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Fellowship awardee. 

3 words to describe Nature?

Nature. Includes. Everything 

3 things Nature taught you?

While we will never understand everything about nature, we have learned enough to know that nature follows laws that are understandable to the mind of Man.

When you discover a truth about the universe, it unlocks other truths and they all fit together.

When scientists think they have a mature theory that they understand, they are in for a big surprise.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

A kelp forest in the Channel islands

Looking across the Sierras at night at a thunderstorm on the next mountain

The night sky in the Arizona desert on a clear day

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?


When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?


When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?


When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

The flow of time

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?


When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?


Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

One part each, no preference. Love them all

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

As I am part of nature, that would be a 10

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

The Milky Way galaxy spread across the night sky and the realization of the immensity of it all and the potential for an infinite future for humanity and our progeny coupled with a sense of awe that we exist.