photo of george gafka

APT Research, Chief Executive Officer (CEO); NASA Senior Executive (Retired)

B.S. ASE 1991, The University of Texas at Austin
M.S. ME 1995, The University of Houston
Masters Space Systems Engineering 2006, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
Prof. Certification 2007, Aircraft Accident Investigation, Southern California Safety Institute
Executive MBA 2014, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA

As the APT Research CEO, George Gafka is the top senior executive responsible for all aspects of the corporation, including exceeding all operational and strategic objectives. Gafka provides mission/vision/values, ethical expectations, and overall direction to the company. Gafka leads the executive team and serves as the primary corporate resource and risk manager. As CEO, Gafka reports to the Chairman of the Board. Prior to being appointed CEO, Gafka was the Executive VP at APT Research and served as the Corporate Chief Innovation and Development Officer, as well as the General Manager for the company’s Safety Engineering & Analysis Center (SEAC) and Aerospace Sector.

Prior to joining APT Research, Gafka had a distinguished 30-year career at NASA, serving most recently as the Chief Safety Officer and Safety & Mission (S&MA) Assurance Director for NASA’s Moon-To-Mars Enterprise (encompassing the following human spaceflight programs: Gateway, Human Lunar Lander, new Space Suit, and Lunar Surface Systems).  Prior to that, Gafka served as the Chief Safety Officer and S&MA Director for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Enterprise (encompassing the following human spaceflight programs: Orion, Space Launch System, and Exploration Ground Systems).  Other substantial roles included Chief Safety Officer for the International Space Station, Chair of the Space Shuttle Mishap Investigation Team, Chief Engineer for Space Shuttle Thermal Protection System “Return to Flight” Projects following the Columbia accident, International Space Station Vehicle Chief Engineer, and numerous source selection activities aimed at transforming NASA’s acquisition and procurement strategy, most notably with the Commercial Crew Program.

An avid believer in continuous learning, Gafka has earned a diverse set of academic degrees described above.  Furthermore, his Masters of Space System Engineering degree and Executive MBA were both highly competitive NASA fellowships and he graduated with a 4.0 and at the top of his class for both degrees.

Over the span of his distinguished career, Gafka received numerous prestigious awards for his leadership and unique contributions, including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, RNASA Stellar Award Nominee, Johnson Space Center Director’s Commendation, numerous Space Flight Awareness Leadership Awards and the coveted NASA Silver Snoopy.  As an undergraduate student at UT Austin, Gafka received a Hillel Foundation scholarship (1990), was awarded the Aerospace Engineering Student Leadership Award (1990) and won first place in the Rube Goldberg Collegiate Challenge (1991) as a core member of the UT Austin team.  Furthermore, Gafka was a competitive cyclist on the UT Austin cycling team.

Gafka lives in Houston, Texas with his wife Tammy, son Marcus, and twin daughters Sadie, and Celia.  His oldest son Scott is currently a freshman at UT Austin studying mechanical engineering.  Gafka enjoys martial arts and still practices with his father (currently in his 80’s!), a life-long journey that they started together almost 40 years ago.  Both are 3rd degree black belts.  Finally, Gafka is a founding member and lead vocal stylist in a heavy metal band.