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Sierra Space recruits senior industry executive to lead high-growth space applications business

Sierra Space, a leading pureplay commercial space company building the first end-to-end business and technology platform in space, announced today another veteran aerospace leader has joined the company’s leadership team. Paul “Rusty” Thomas will serve a dual role for the company: Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Space Applications business sector, as well as Sierra Space’s Chief Technology Officer.

Paul “Rusty” Thomas, Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Space Applications business sector

Thomas will drive the development and operations of market-leading satellite and in-space systems and services. Space Applications has developed new innovations in propulsion systems, power systems, precision controls and mechanisms, life support and environmental control systems, and in-space bio-agricultural products.


“Rusty is an innovative team leader with a record of aligning space system design teams and production teams to usher new vehicles from concept to orbit at unprecedented speed and market-leading affordability,” said Tom Vice, Sierra Space CEO. “He is an exceptional executive who will lead our rapidly expanding Space Applications sector. Throughout his career, Rusty has successfully demonstrated the use of disruptive management approaches from R&D conceptional design to orbital demonstrations to high revenue production.”


“Our innovative Space Applications business is rapidly expanding to meet the demand of a sizeable addressable market valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Thomas. “We are seeing significant demand, especially for Earth observation and connectivity, and Sierra Space is positioned perfectly to scale up and tackle this high-growth segment.”


Thomas has experience in commercial and government space systems with more than 120 launched spacecraft spanning LEO, GEO, and interplanetary. He joins Sierra Space from Amazon, where he was the lead for the company’s Kuiper Government Solutions team. Amazon’s Kuiper Systems is a planned constellation of 3,236 satellites that provides global broadband internet connectivity.


Prior to Amazon, Thomas worked with DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office leading Project Blackjack, a proliferated LEO satellite system with autonomous operations and direct tactical communication links from space to mobile ground users. He served at SpaceX before that, as Senior Director for Dragon Production, where he led the team that built the first commercial spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station. Thomas streamlined production, driving a build rate of six spacecraft per year, refurbished the first reusable Dragons, and established Crew Dragon production systems. His team also manufactured the Falcon9 landing legs and actuators.


Thomas also held positions at Motorola, working on the original Iridium satellite integration and launch team, as well as performing Space Shuttle and SpaceLab structural analysis. At Northrop Grumman Innovations Systems (previously ATK), he held multiple program management positions, including leading the DARPA Microsatellite Technology Experiment (MiTEx) satellite mechanical design team.


He holds a bachelor of science in aeronautical and astronomical engineering from Purdue University and a master of science in engineering mechanics, aerospace from The University of Texas at Austin. His military background includes 20 years of service. Thomas is an Iraq veteran and Navy Intelligence Officer trained to deploy with Naval Special Warfare teams.


Thomas’ appointment follows the recent addition of Erik Daehler as Vice President of Orbital Systems and Services to Sierra Space’s Applications business – a team that has already accrued more than 30 years and 500 missions of space flight heritage. Daehler has lead responsibility for the innovation, development, production and operation of Sierra Space’s satellite products and services.

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