October 9, 2019. 

Stellar Solutions’ Vice President for Defense Programs, Betsy Pimentel, has been at the forefront of aerospace engineering, space exploration and defense throughout a career that has reached great heights in the public and private sectors.  Also notable is the fact that Pimentel got her start as part of the first U.S. Air Force Academy class of women in 1976. In 2020, as she is poised to commemorate the 40th anniversary of this first coeducational graduating class, Pimentel is commanding the interest of a generation of women and men who are eager to understand the profound roles of aerospace and technology in their future.

Betsy Pimentel, VP for Defense Programs

Pimentel has appeared on a variety of platforms, from Yahoo Finance on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, to the California Council for Excellence‘s annual Leadership Symposium on innovation and performance October 4 where she was a featured speaker.  This coincides with an important milestone in history: on October 7, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed the law allowing the service academies to admit women. The first class that included women entered in 1976 and graduated in 1980. Pimentel received a Bachelor of Science from the Academy and then completed a Masters in Engineering Management form Santa Clara University with the technical portion in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science.  

“Betsy Pimentel is an outstanding leader and role model for women and men.  Her insistence on excellence and integrity in designing and completing complex missions results in projects that expand our knowledge and benefit our nation,” said Celeste Ford, Board Chair and Founder.

From her positions as Chief, Space Control Planning with the U.S. Air Force and Director of Defense Policy in the National Security Council at the White House, to advancing space system integration at Northrop Grumman, TASC Inc., and Stellar Solutions, Pimentel is a nationally-recognized leader in all aspects of space system and mission planning, systems engineering and defense program management.

After Gerald Ford signed Public Law 94-106 directing the service academies to admit women, more than 300 enrolled in the academies of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. The country soon went from divisive arguments in Congress and resistance from the Department of Defense on the prospect of allowing these women in, to the Air Force selecting the first woman aviator for Test Pilot School in 1982. Just a few years later, six Air Force women served as pilots, copilots and boom operators during military operations in Libya during 1986, the same year that the Air Force Academy saw its first female top graduate. This progression is symbolic of “forming a more perfect union” – continuing together as individuals, communities, and a nation to strive and innovate across all levels of the human condition.

Spread from 1980 U.S. Air Force Academy Yearbook highlighting the first female class to graduate. (USAF courtesy photo) 

The dedication and courage of these trailblazers paved the way not only in the military but across all of society. Even today, women remain extraordinarily underrepresented in the industry C-Suite particularly as the seniority increases among those top level positions. Betsy Pimentel has persevered in this area as well, as one of those few top level female executives in the male dominated areas like technology and national defense. 

She has shared knowledge and wisdom on important issues such as: 

  • The evolving importance of space in the Defense and Intelligence arenas where Betsy is well known for her contributions over the years. 
  • How the proliferation of communications, video and audio technologies is changing the dynamics and landscape of space exploration and how this will lead to new discoveries. 
  • How the role of women has grown from the time when Stellar Solutions Founder and Board Chair Celeste Ford was one of the few women in the control center launching satellites, to today when female aerospace engineers are a vital component of the workforce. 
  • How the pursuit of a return to the moon and even Mars is energizing the next generation of aerospace engineers. 
  • How commercial organizations and international partnerships are joining the government in driving space exploration.

As we consider the future of civilization and humanity, including sending the first woman beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and possibly Mars, the stories and lessons of women like Betsy Pimentel are a key part of the incredible journey.