Starting Up and Taking Off

The future is the present at Astronautics Corporation of America.  Throughout 50 years of innovation, Astronautics has been committed to pushing the boundaries of technology to create unparalleled and outstanding products. In 1959, Nathaniel Zelazo and Norma Zelazo Paige, brother and sister, founded  the company. Their strong work ethic had taken shape when they were children and their family immigrated to the United States from Poland. Prior to their founding Astronautics, Zelazo served as an engineer for the United States Navy,  and then as an executive in the Aerospace Industry, and Paige practiced law in New York.  In 1959, Zelazo, together with the University of Minnesota’s Rosemount Aeronautical Laboratories (RAL), was awarded a United States Air Force contract to study methods for minimizing the use of fuel to reach Earth orbit and travel to the Moon.

Throughout the 1960s, the company won contracts to design and manufacture aircraft instruments from the United States military and NASA.  Astronautics supplied flight instrumentation for many aircraft, including the B-52, F-4, A-4, C-130, UH-1, P-3, and others. One product lead the way to the next generation of products. Eventually Astronautics designed complete flight director systems, consisting of instruments and computers.  As the company and its reputation for excellence grew, its product line continued to expand. As one of the first to incorporate cathode ray tube (CRT) technologies in airborne applications, Astronautics provided the horizontal situation display for the U.S. Air Force F-111 aircraft, which combined CRT, moving maps, and optical technologies. This display program greatly enhanced the company’s capabilities in the areas of engineering, quality control, reliability, and production.

Guiding the Industry

Today Astronautics supplies integrated systems, advanced flat-panel displays, and digital avionics equipment for commercial and military aircraft, including the B-1, B-2, C-17, P-3, F-15, F-16, T-38, Tornado, PC-9, A-109, and B-412, among others. Astronautics’ electronic flight bag provides commercial airline pilots electronic images of flight manuals, airport maps, terminal maps, approach charts, and other information. It is standard equipment on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and also available and used on Boeing 777, 767, 757, 747, and 737 aircraft. The electronic flight bag also includes an onboard performance tool that helps the pilot reduce fuel consumption, the display of video surveillance of all areas of the aircraft, and collision-avoidance information that shows the location of other aircraft in the air and on the runway.  Astronautics provides highly advanced network server systems for the Federal Express fleet, as well as equipment for a new Airbus aircraft. Furthermore, the company installs complete avionic system upgrades in many aircraft, including the Brazilian Air Force’s fleet of C-130 transport aircraft.

Covering the Universe and the Globe

Astronautics is proud of its nearly 2,000 talented and diverse employees.  Many of these are graduates of Wisconsin universities, and others have traveled from every corner of the globe to work for a company that is on the cutting edge of avionics and space technology.  Since its beginning, Astronautics has employed some of the world’s most capable engineers.  All of these individuals perform at the highest level to help fulfill the company’s mission—to provide timely delivery of cost-effective products of the highest quality through open communications and teamwork with customers, employees, and suppliers.  Astronautics considers that, in an ever-changing global environment, the key to success is to focus on quality and the future.  Whether developing new products to improve flight safety, fuel usage, or pilot efficiency, Astronautics consistently anticipates the needs of its many customers through the innovative use of new technology in new applications.

as seen in the book, Wisconsin: A Tradition of Innovation, published by Cherbo Publishing Group, Inc.