Daniel HicksChief Executive Officer
Mr. Hicks began his 34-year career with the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in 1982 as a Test Conductor within the Materiel Test Directorate. There in1991, he became the Supervisory General Engineer of the Patriot Missile System, leading the execution of all aspects of developmental testing and combined developmental/operational testing in the acquisition of a major military system. Dan went on to become the acting Division Chief, where he managed the activities of the three branches in the Division: Air and Missile Defense, Tactical Missiles and Targets, and Space, Sensor and Interoperability. These programs focused on theater missile and national missile defense, air defense battle management, U.S. Army directed energy and space programs, space related programs/applications under NASA, DoD, foreign and other commercial programs.
Later, Mr. Hicks was appointed by the Commanding General to stand up a new Business Development Directorate with qualified engineers and scientists responsible for the strategic planning, transformation, business development, marketing, and staff functions for U.S. Army WSMR. His responsibilities included leading the overall business development and instrumentation and test infrastructure development. Here he led the successful merger of two directorates into one, maximizing investment dollars based on customer requirements, which created direct cost savings for U.S. Army WSMR.
Following that assignment Dan became the Technical Director of WSMR, the Chief of Staff, and in 2013, the Deputy Executive Director. In these leadership roles, he was responsible for assisting the Commanding General and the Executive Director in the operations of the entire WSMR, with over eleven billion dollars of infrastructure and a noontime population of approximately twelve thousand personnel. At present, Mr. Hicks is responsible for the direct oversight of the command planning functions for the range where he has just completed “WSMR 2046” a 30 year strategic plan and maintains oversight for all external relationships; congressional and state legislatures; federal, state, and local agencies; and other community and business stakeholders.
A graduate of Las Cruces High School, Mr. Hicks received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from New Mexico State University and received an honorary selection to the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Academy at New Mexico State University.
Zach De Gregorio, CPAChief Financial Officer
Zach De Gregorio is the Chief Financial Officer at Spaceport America, where he provides financial leadership and accountability for the financial administration of the agency in accordance with the administrative code of the State of New Mexico. Mr. De Gregorio is also a licensed CPA within the State of New Mexico.
De Gregorio previously held management positions in the film and hotel real estate investment sectors and most recently managed business operations for the Renewable Energy Division of Sandia National Laboratory generating $41 million in annual revenue with over 350 staff.
Passionate about both accounting and space, Zach recently published the book Wolves and Finance on theoretical finance discussing the challenges of accounting during space travel.
De Gregorio began his studies at University of Southern California in Los Angeles where he received a Bachelor Degree in Cinema and Business. He also holds a Master of Business Administration with a focus on Financial Management and Markets from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Zach went on to complete a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from the George Washington University School of Business and a Master of Accounting Degree from the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico.
Melissa Kemper ForceGeneral Counsel
Melissa Kemper Force was the principal partner of a successful consulting firm in Los Angeles, California where she provided legal advice on complex international policy and legal issues to clients in the commercial aerospace industry. She taught courses on Aviation and Space Law as an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School and International Law and Politics of Outer Space and Space Systems Law and Policy as an adjunct professor at Webster University. She is an elected member of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) and Co-Chair of its Manfred Lachs International Space Law Moot Court Committee, which oversees regional moot court competitions in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America and organizes and conducts international finals every year during the International Astronautical Congress.
Prior to her consultancy, Ms. Force worked in the Office of Space Commerce in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), assisting in the development of the commercial space transportation policy and representing NOAA at U.S. delegation meetings in preparation for sessions on the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems. Previously, she was the Vice President and Associate General Counsel heading international and domestic claims for HOK, Inc. and a partner in the Los Angeles office of Carroll, Burdick & McDonough LLP litigating jury trials of products liability, environmental and construction defect disputes.
Ms. Force holds an Advanced LLM degree from the International Institute of Air and Space Law at Leiden University (the Netherlands). She has served as moderator and panelist for the Air Law Institute’s Air and Space Law Symposium and the American Bar Association’s Forum on Air & Space Law and has authored, published and presented papers in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America on a wide array of issues, including space traffic management, space debris, extraterrestrial resource extraction, the Moon Agreement, suborbital spaceflight and rules for the arbitration of space disputes in fora as diverse as the IISL Annual Colloquium, at the IAASS Space Safety Conference, the Canadian Space Commerce Association National Conference, the International Space Development Conference and the Global Space Exploration Conference.
Ms. Force is passionate about advocacy to support the most vulnerable members of our community, the elderly, low-wage workers and the disabled. As a volunteer attorney within the real estate fraud division of Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles, Ms. Force contributed to impact litigation, pursued elder fraud prosecution and undertook conservatorship proceedings as a means to assist people who would otherwise be denied access to the legal system underpinning our democracy. Ms. Force graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and a JD from the University of Missouri – Columbia School of Law, where she served as an editor of the Law Review.
Dr. Bill GutmanVice President of Aerospace Operations
Dr. Gutman is the Director of Aerospace Operations at Spaceport America responsible for aerospace operations including space launches and airfield management. Dr. Gutman assists customers and staff in resolving technical issues, serves as the primary liaison with the US Army White Sands Missile Range, manages launches and flight safety, maintains the FAA launch site operator license, and manages spaceport technical instrumentation. Bill can also often be found in the classroom sharing his enthusiasm for space with the next generation.
Prior to joining the spaceport, Dr. Gutman was a research physicist at the New Mexico State University Physical Science Laboratory (NMSU PSL) and worked on a variety of projects. These included providing technical support to the spaceport, developing advanced sensor systems, research in high power laser propagation, investigating military smoke materials, developing optical instrumentation systems, and performing risk assessments of space and aviation systems. Beginning in 1999, he participated in the development of the unmanned aircraft program at NMSU PSL.
Dr. Gutman earned his Ph.D. in optical and molecular physics from Ohio State University.
Chris LopezVice President of Site Operations
Chris Lopez is the Director of Site Operations at Spaceport America responsible for protective services, infrastructure and ground operations at the site. Prior to joining the Spaceport America team, he managed, redeveloped, and leased over 1,000,000 sq. ft. of commercial real estate. Much of this included work with nationally known corporate tenants such as JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. During this time he earned the prestigious CCIM designation (Certified Commercial Investment Member). Chris leads strategic site development, construction and program management at Spaceport America and is the designated point of contact for tenants, customers, visitors and contractors.
While serving in international sales management positions with Singapore Technologies Assembly and Test Services and Kyocera America, Chris negotiated and managed multi-million dollar revenue streams with customers including Intel, Motorola and Conexant. His teams launched early product lines with 802.11 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cell phone camera image sensors technologies in coordination with production teams across Scandinavia, Asia Pacific and North America.
Chris is passionate about his family and mentoring youth and has helped establish Charter Schools, DARE Basketball Camps and other initiatives over many years to encourage young people recognize and embrace the opportunities all around them.
Chris received a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration, Marketing with a special focus on Logistics from New Mexico State University.
Karen BarkerDirector of Strategic Solutions
Karen Barker has taken on the position of Director of Strategic Solutions for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority after being at the Office of Secretary of Defense in Acquisition, Technology and Logistics supporting critical space, cyber and technology programs.
“We are extremely blessed to have Karen as our Solutions Director at Spaceport America. She has an extensive background in space systems and launch operations, a highly competent problem solving intellect, and a super positive attitude for customer support that makes her a perfect fit for our continued growth in the space industry.”
Barker’s background is comprehensive in space business and technology development: engineering, test, evaluations and acquisition of commercial, civil and national security space systems; launch ranges and spaceports; space vehicles (satellites); operationally responsive space; nuclear effects; strategic space, space threats and cyberspace. She works collaboratively with NASA, the FAA AST, DoC, DoS, DNI, NRO and the many space-related offices in DoD. She has authored acquisition and policy recommendations for space range use and launch, assured access to space, space systems security and commercial use of space. As a senior technical advisor she is relied on for the national and international rocket development and space threat developments. She was responsible for DoD interagency collaboration on space licenses and permits on behalf of the Test Resource Management Center for the Office of Secretary of Defense.
Barker has held responsibility for R&D (DARPA), government and industry aerospace programs. Her career spans from space systems engineer to certified program manager, encompassing Shuttle, Trident, Delta, Atlas, Falcon, Antares, Blue Origin and other launch vehicles and operations; cruise missile and aerospace technologies; and rocket engine programs. She was the director of commercial space launch development for the Governor of Florida through Spaceport Florida, helping to build the Cape Canaveral Spaceport for safe and affordable commercial space. She contributed to standing up other state spaceports. As a legislative fellow she worked inside both Bush and Obama administrations at the State Department (Office of Space and Advanced Technology) and the Commerce Department/ NOAA (Office of Space Commerce). Barker provided technical guidance for the National Coordination office for Position, Navigation and Timing (global Navigation Satellite Systems). As a launch operations engineer she was assigned missile defense, international and GPS satellite integration as well as checkout and launch of Delta and Atlas rockets. She also worked with cruise missile, satellite and military aircraft development and manufacturing and is a certified small munitions weaponeer.
A graduate of the Florida Institute of Technology, she holds an MS in Space Systems and an MS in Systems Management/MBA, several patents and is the Deputy Director of Space and Missiles for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, serving the many space-related technical committees within the organization. She is well known for her engagements with STEM projects and mentors at every opportunity.