Dr. Merri J. Sanchez, a senior level executive, is Chief Science and Technical Advisor, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The command comprises 42,000 space and cyberspace professionals. The command oversees Air Force network operations; manages a global network of satellite command and control, communications, missile warning and space launch facilities; and is responsible for space system development and acquisitions. Dr. Sanchez serves as the principal adviser to the commander on all scientific and technical matters. She is the authority for all S&T concerning space and cyberspace research and development programs for the space enterprise vision, launch, ground systems, cyberspace and multi-domain cross-cutting areas. She serves as the senior authority for all AFSPC scientific and technical matters, and is delegated the authority to guide the substantive scientific and technical program activities within the command. In this role, she interacts with other principals, operational commanders, combatant commands, acquisition, science and technology and international communities to address cross-organizational science and technical issues and solutions. Dr. Sanchez represents AFSPC science and technology on decisions, high-level planning and policy, building coalitions and alliances throughout the U.S. government, industry, academia, the international community and other scientific and technology organizations at venues that affect the command. She evaluates technical needs, solutions, architectures and programs and advises on shaping command programs to ensure the infusion of S&T provides the best possible solutions. Dr. Sanchez entered government service in 1982 with NASA.
Dr. Sanchez has more than 31 years of space engineering, management and financial experience. She has experience working complex international/multidisciplinary efforts, program management, crisis management, engineering, operations, integration, safety, root cause analysis, flight test, spacecraft development and budget analysis.
Dr. Sanchez served 28 years as a senior executive, manager and engineer at NASA working projects for the Space Shuttle, International Space Station and X-38 Crew Return Vehicle. She provided leadership establishing program requirements, negotiated with international partners and served as real-time operational manager for several multi-month expeditions to the ISS. Dr. Sanchez also served as the NASA Liaison to the Air Force Space Command, Strategic Command, Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. She was a key strategic advisor to the NASA Administrator of DoD space-related matters, including policy, operations and research and development. She represented NASA-wide interests working directly with the commanders of AFSPC, STRATCOM and NORAD/NORTHCOM. She was the senior-level NASA representative to the national security community located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Omaha, Nebraska, including AFSPC, STRATCOM and NORAD/NORTHCOM and their component commands.
Prior to assuming her current position, Dr. Sanchez was Senior Director for the Space Systems Group at the Sierra Nevada Corporation in Louisville, Colorado, where she was Deputy Program Executive and Program Manager for the Dream Chaser commercial crew spacecraft development. She led the implementation of a new organization, business area and technical team, changing the paradigm for human spacecraft development. She also served as Senior Director for Business Operations. She developed strategic planning of technology thrusts and provided strategic vision and leadership relative to policy, long term planning, partnerships, acquisitions and business development, cost management, risk management and knowledge management across the space business area.
Dr. Sanchez is a Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and served over ten years on the AIAA Board of Directors in two vice president positions and a director position. She is the author of more than 18 publications.
1985 Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
1989 Master of Science in Physical Sciences (Planetary Geology), University of Houston at Clear Lake, Clear Lake, Texas
1994 Master of Mechanical Engineering, University of Houston, Houston, Texas
1999 Doctorate of Philosophy in Industrial Engineering (Human Factors), University of Houston, Houston, Texas
1. January 1982 – August 1984, cooperative education student, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
2. June 1985 – May 1989, engineer, Vehicle Integration Test Office, Flight Crew Operations Directorate, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
3. May 1989 – May 1995, Technical Assistant to Chief Astronaut, Astronaut Office, Flight Crew Operations Directorate, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
4. May 1995 – May 1998, X-38 Deputy Project Manager, X-38 Project, Engineering Directorate, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
5. May 1998 – January 1999, Project Manager, ISS/TransHab Advanced Environmental Control and Life Support Systems Advanced Project, Crew and Thermal Systems Division, Engineering Directorate, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
6. January 1999 – May 1999, Assistant Manager, Operations Office, International Space Station Program, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
7. May 1999 – September 2007, Increment Manager, International Space Station Program, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
8. August 2000 – December 2000, Adjunct Professor, Graduate Astrodynamics, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colo.
9. September 2004 – May 2005, Budget Analyst, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
10. September 2007 – September 2008, NASA Liaison to DoD Operational Responsive Space Office, Kirtland AFB, N.M.
11. September 2008 – July 2010, NASA Liaison to Air Force Space Command, Strategic Command, Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Peterson AFB, Colo.
12. July 2010 – May 2014, Senior Director, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colo.
13. June 2014 – present, Chief, Science and Technical Advisor (Chief Scientist), Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, Colo.
AWARDS AND HONORS
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Fellow
1988 NASA Johnson Space Center Graduate Fellowship
1990 NASA JSC Certificate of Commendation
1991 NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal
1991 NASA Superior Achievement Award
1992 NASA Fellowship - Smith Management Program for Women
1992 NASA Group Achievement Award
1993 NASA Silver Snoopy Award
1994 NASA JSC Certificate of Commendation
1996 NASA Group Achievement Award
1997 Exceptional Leadership Award – X38 Project
1998 NASA Group Achievement Award
1999 Rotary Space Achievement Stellar Award as a member of the TransHab Development Team
1999 NASA Group Achievement Award
2001 NASA Group Achievement Award
2002 NASA JSC Director's Commendation
2003 NASA Space Flight Awareness Team Award for the International Space Station Replan Team
2003 AIAA Sustained Service Award
2004 NASA Superior Achievement Award
2004 AIAA Special Service Citation
2006 NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal
2006 NASA Superior Achievement Award
2007 AIAA Special Service Citation
2009 NASA Senior Executive Service
2010 Sierra Nevada Corporation Superior Technical Achievement Recognition Award
2012 Sierra Nevada Corporation Frontier Award
2014 Department of the Air Force Senior Leader
2014 Texas A&M University Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award
2016 Texas A&M University College of Engineering Outstanding Alumni Honor Award
2017 Texas A&M University Distinguished Aerospace Engineer Award
PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Texas A&M University Dwight Look College of Engineering Advisory Council
Texas A&M University Aerospace Engineering Advisory Board
Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Compensation Committee, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (former)
Rice University Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Advisory Board (former)
eSpace Board of Directors (former)
Avionics Systems and Introduction to Flight Testing, National Test Pilot School
Certificate of Management from Smith Management Program for Women, Smith College
(Current as of April 2017)