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Len Cormier papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 207

Scope and Contents

The Len Cormier papers document Cormier's work as a commercial space flight pioneer. The majority of the papers include drawings, designs, blueprints, and papers related to engineer Cormier's work to design commercial reusable launch vehicles and other orbital vehicles. Types of materials include blueprints, business documents, CAD files, engineering designs, family documents, maps, a model (Space Van), papers, posters, research material, reports, topographical maps, and VHS tapes.


  • 1944 - 2008
  • Majority of material found within 1980 - 2007


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research. A few digital files have been redacted to protect individuals' personal information.

Copyright and Use Information

Portions of the material in this collection are in the public domain. Other material copyrights are held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

Leonard N. Cormier was born in Boston in 1926. He joined the Navy in 1943 and served as a Naval Aviation Cadet, a fighter pilot, and executive officer of an anti-submarine warfare patron squadron. He joined the Navy Reserves in 1947 and achieved the rank of lieutenant commander in 1958. He retired from the reserves in 1966.

Cormier received a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1952. He was involved in space programs most of his career. He worked at NASA at the beginning of his career as well as the National Academy of Sciences in Washington. As a staffer at the Academy in 1957, he attended the International Geophysical Year proceedings when the Soviets surprised the world with the launch of Sputnik. This event left a great impression on him, and it was then that he decided to pursue better access to space through affordable, reusable space vehicles.

In the 1960s, he was project engineer for space transportation systems at the Los Angeles Division of the former North American Aviation Incorporated. He also spent two years as a project engineer and program manager for fighter systems at the former North American Rockwell. Cormier was also a private entrepreneur, and in 1967 he formed a company called TranSpace (later known as Third Millenium Inc.). This marked the beginning of his work on a commercial approach to spaceflight.

In 1978 Cormier left Rockwell International, where he had worked on the Space Shuttle. He believed the Space Shuttle was overdesigned, and that a launch vehicle could be designed at a fraction of the cost. Over the years he worked to bring his idea to fruition through his company, PanAero Incorporated. He created a conceptual design for the Space Van 2011, which was a two-stage horizontal takeoff and landing craft he believed could service the International Space Station and do other orbital missions much cheaper than the cost of a space shuttle or Soyuz. Cormier struggled to obtain sufficient investers for his Space Van, which underwent numerous revisions over the years. One of his last attempts was in 2003 by trying to win the X Prize, a $10 million award offered to the first private team to fly a manned rocket into space. He competed against twenty teams for the prize with his SabreRocket model but lost.

He was a charter member of the Department of Transportation's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee.


7.915 Cubic Feet (Six flat boxes, two large archival boxes, one cubic foot box, and one letter-size full-width manuscript box)

12.3 Gigabytes (Files from Dell desktop computer and one flash drive)


The papers are organized into six series.
  1. Blueprints
  2. Posters and Topographical maps
  3. Computer-aided design (CAD) files
  4. Len Cormier's Aerospace Companies
  5. Personal and Family documents
  6. Projects and Design Documents

Physical Access Information

The collection is stored offsite. At least 24 hours notice is required to access the collection.

Technical Access

The CAD files can only be viewed using the original CAD software (DesignCAD Pro 2000). The CAD files are available on a Windows XP virtual machine that has the DesignCAD Pro 2000 software installed. This virtual machine can be accessed on the Purdue Archives and Special Collection’s reading room computer. Please contact the Archivist for Digital Preservation for any addition assistance or questions.

Acquisition Information

Donated January 1, 2015 by David Latzko, Cormier's son-in-law, and Anne Greenglass, Cormier's wife. Additional additions were donated by David Latzko on January 27, 2015 and December 19, 2023.

Processing Information

Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained. All materials have been housed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes. A tree directory containing the original file order of Len Cormier’s desktop computer is available to researchers upon request.



Len Cormier papers
Mary A. Sego and Ben Parnin
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Third edition. Finding aid was first completed 2018-01-28.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States