Dr Joni Sytsma
Dr. Joni Sytsma is an aerospace engineer originating from the USA, although she has recently become a citizen of Australia in May 2022 and is committed to building innovative technologies within Australia. She has a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida and has over a decade of experience developing cutting edge weapons systems at the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Munitions Directorate.
At AFRL, she started her career in development of first generation weaponised drones and played a large part in the development of what has now become the Switchblade drone attack system, designing the early airframe, wing folding, aerodynamic configuration, internal packaging, manufacturing processes and guidance, navigation and control (GNC) systems.
As that system successfully transitioned out of the laboratory she shifted focus to the large hypersonic weapon development efforts and led R&D teams to develop technologies along similar lines as the previous drone work with additional complications unique to hypersonics. She secured a secondment to DST group in Pullenvale to launch two hypersonic rockets under the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experiment (HIFiRE) programme, serving as Scientific Lead for the last rocket in the series, HIFiRE 7b. Dedicated to staying in Australia, she went to work for Gilmour Space Technologies as Head of GNC and was responsible for developing the entire software stack to control the space rocket, simulate and verify performance, and assess range safety as well as performing design optimisation of vehicle sizing and trajectory.
Joni moved on to be Chief Technology Officer of a counter drone company in Canberra, Department 13, where she designed the entire new product line of radio systems. Her current role is Chief Technology Officer of the iLAuNCH program, Australia’s $180M space program where she is leading the technology development of numerous space and aerospace projects that will fly in the skies in the coming years. Joni’s 17 year career has educated her in the successful research, development and commercialisation of extremely complex aerospace systems where combined interactions of hardware, software and physics are the defining value-add