Allan Ark

Allan Ark is the General Manager of AAE Aerospace, a Division of Karman Space & Defense. Mr. Ark is responsible for overseeing all aspects of production, strategy, and operations. He brings over 23+ years of experience in the industry. He most recently served as General Manager for Alliance Space Systems, a division of Applied Composites primarily focused on composite manufacturing for space satellite structures located in Los Alamitos, CA.

Mr. Ark began his career as a hardware engineer at Motorola, located in Boynton Beach, Florida, where he helped develop 2-way paging and 1st generation smartphone technology.  He then worked as a payload systems engineer for both government and commercial satellite programs at Boeing’s Satellite Development Center in El Segundo, CA. He spent several years as a technology strategy consultant in the Pentagon for Booz Allen Hamilton, defining DoD technology roadmaps and acquisition policy for space & airborne communications systems.

Mr. Ark earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Virginia Tech. Additionally, he received his master’s in business administration from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA

 


Vice President of Operations, Tom Kunkel

Tom Kunkel

Tom Kunkel is the Vice President of Operations at Karman Space & Defense.  He has over 10+ years of leadership experience in aerospace engineering, operations, and program management.  He plays a pivotal role in overseeing the company's day-to-day operations, ensuring optimal performance, and driving strategic growth initiatives.

Mr. Kunkel has developed and executed business plans for highly regulated companies in North America and Europe.  He enjoys building teams that focus on employee safety, customer on-time-delivery and continuous improvement. He most recently served as the Vice President of Operations for Hartwell Corporation. Prior to joining Hartwell, Mr. Kunkel held leadership roles at Precision Cast Corp. and Schlumberger.

Mr. Kunkel obtained his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from University of Oklahoma.  Additionally, he holds an APICS CSCP Certification and completed an Executive Education Course at the USC Marshall School of Business.


jack czerwisnki

Jack Czerwinksi

Founder and president of Reston Strategy Group “RSG,” a successful government affairs and strategic business consulting firm located in Northern Virginia. Czerwinski has extensive experience with the Congressional appropriations process and focuses on the aerospace, defense, and technology sectors. Before moving to the private sector, Czerwinski served as Appropriations Legislative Assistant to Virginia Congressman Frank R. Wolf (VA-10), who served as Chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee with oversight and funding jurisdiction over NASA, DOJ, the FBI and other federal agencies.


rich choppa karman space defense

Rich Choppa

President of DellaCioppa Inc., an Aerospace and Defense Consulting firm, providing expertise in leadership, program management and operations, business development and sales, talent management, strategic and organizational planning. Choppa retired after 17 years as an executive at Boeing, most recently as Program Director for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Sustainment Programs and former Senior Director of Global Sales and Marketing for the company’s Missile & Weapons Systems division. He served 21 years in the U.S. Army, starting as a private and retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He served as a forward observer, fire support officer and commander in Ranger and Airborne units with multiple worldwide deployments.


advisory board karman space defense

Anthony "Tony" Antonelli

Astronaut Tony Antonelli (Captain, US Navy, Ret.) is a retired Astronaut, Naval Aviator and Test Pilot. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989 and a Master of Science in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering from the University of Washington in 2002.

Mr. Antonelli served as a fleet Naval Aviator and Landing Signal Officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz with the Blue Diamonds, Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-146, flying F/A-18C Hornets in support of Operation Southern Watch. He has accumulated over 4,700 flight hours in over 40 different kinds of aircraft and has completed 273 carrier arrested landings.  He is a Distinguished Graduate of the US Air Force Test Pilot School (Navy Exchange Pilot).

Mr. Antonelli joined NASA in 2000 as a pilot astronaut candidate.  A veteran of two space flights, Antonelli logged 24 days, 3 hours, 57 minutes and 35 seconds in space.  Antonelli served in various technical assignments in support of the Astronaut Office; including leadership roles for the Space Launch System, Commercial Crew, Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM), and Space Shuttle Propulsion.

On March 15, 2009, Antonelli launched on STS-119 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery as the pilot.  The crew delivered and assembled the sixth Starboard Integrated Truss Segment (S6) and the fourth set of solar arrays and batteries for the International Space Station.

On May 14, 2010, Antonelli launched on STS-132 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis as the pilot.  The mission delivered an Integrated Cargo Carrier and a Russian built Mini Research Module (MRM-1) to the Station.

Antonelli retired from NASA in July 2015 and worked for six years at Lockheed Martin in various Executive roles including; Chief Technologist for Civil Space, Director of Advanced Programs for Commercial/Civil Space and Artemis II Mission Director for the Orion Program Office.


Mike Willis

Mike Willis is the Chief Financial Officer of Karman Space & Defense.  Mr. Willis holds 15+ years of progressive experience in finance and operations management.  He is responsible for overseeing the organization’s financials activities, which includes maintaining a strong control environment and the development of streamlined financial reporting and forecasts to support future growth.

Mr. Willis possesses domestic and international finance experience in Aerospace, Automotive and Energy segments.  Prior to joining Karman, Mr. Willis was most recently with Precision Castparts Corp as the Director of Finance within the Forgings Division, responsible for 14 businesses across five countries.

Mr. Willis is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and obtained his Masters of Business Administration from Pennsylvania State University.  Additionally, he received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration – Finance from the University of Oregon.


Karman Space & Defense Aerospace Careers

Tina Gurrola

Tina Gurrola is the Vice President of Human Resources for Karman Space & Defense. Ms. Gurrola holds 25+ years of extensive Human Resources and Talent Acquisition experience. She is responsible for areas of HR, Recruitment, People Management, Compensation, Training & Development, Strategic Planning, and Coaching and Discipline.

Ms. Gurrola has worked in a variety of industries which include, Entertainment, Construction, Education, and Aerospace. She previously served as the National Director of Human Resources & Talent Acquisition for Residential Design Services from August 2016 to August 2021. Before joining RDS, she managed the HR and Recruitment Team at B&H Education, as the National Director of HR and Talent Acquisition. Ms. Gurrola began her career as an entry level Recruiter for Staples Office Supply in 2001, where she advanced quickly to Senior Recruiter for the Western United States.

Ms. Gurrola obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from California State University of Long Beach in 1995 and is currently finishing her certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.


Aaron Freiheit

Aaron Freiheit is Vice President of Information Technology for Karman Space & Defense (Karman). In this role, Mr. Freiheit leads the Information Technology teams across Karman’s divisions, to ensure that company and customer data is protected, and that Karman employees have the technology tools and services to serve Karman’s customers. Mr. Freiheit has over 10 years of experience in his current responsibilities and 20 years of experience with Systima, a division of Karman Space & Defense.

Prior to Karman Space & Defense’s acquisition of Systima in 2021, Mr. Freiheit served a diverse range of engineering and operational leadership roles including Senior Mechanical Engineer, Engineering Program Manager, Director of Operations, and Vice President of Systems and Operations.

Mr. Freiheit obtained a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington in 1997. Additionally, he received a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Washington in 2006.


Eric Wightman

Eric Wightman, Vice President of Advanced Materials at Karman Space and Defense has over 20 years of experience in advanced materials for the aerospace and defense markets.  Throughout Eric’s career, he has grown capabilities to support some of the most challenging demands and capabilities such as Carbon/Carbon processing and development, ablative materials, metallic thermal forming, structural composites development, and manufacturing to name a few.  Before growing the Advanced Materials group at Karman, Eric built from the ground up the Composites engineering team as well as the manufacturing capability at Systima which includes the current world-class material test lab capability. Before Systima, Eric served as a process engineer at Safran in Marysville, WA as a process engineer supporting the bulk resin infusion process for 787-8 primary structures.

Eric started his career as an NHRA top fuel funny crew member and had hands-on composites exposure fabricating 10,000 HP, nitromethane burning race cars and exposed Eric to some of the most challenging environments as well as mission-critical demands in order to win. After leaving the racing world and prior to Safran Eric served as a material and process engineer at Applied Composites, Indianapolis.  This role was a very dynamic role where Eric would own entire project scopes that included laminate design, tooling design, and fab and overall part fabrication to deliver the most challenging structural composites to support the aerospace and Defense market.

 


Stephanie Sawhill- Karman Space Defense

Stephanie Sawhill

Stephanie Sawhill is the Chief Business Development Officer at Karman Space & Defense. Ms. Sawhill has over 18 years of aerospace industry experience. She is responsible for business development and product growth strategies. Ms. Sawhill has extensive expertise in propulsion and insensitive munition technologies, advanced materials and development of energetic devices. She currently holds positions on the AIAA Propulsion & Energy and Energetic Components and Systems Technical Committees.

Previously, Ms. Sawhill held various leading positions including, Engineering IPT Lead, Program Manager and Sr. Research Chemist and leads Research and Development. In addition, Ms. Sawhill is the co-author of three patents, as well as papers in AIAA, IEEE, Ceramics International and other publications.

Ms. Sawhill is a graduate from Western Washington University and obtained a Master of Science degree in Chemistry in 2003 and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a minor in Physics in 2001.