HomeNewsArticle Display

Ronald B. Cortopassi: A Legacy of Dedication to Space Support

Ronald B. Cortopassi, Space Launch Delta 30 executive director, attends his last SLD 30 stand-up meeting at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., July 13, 2022. As the executive director, Cortopassi provides continuity of senior management, offers technical advice and counsel in matters of policy and direction to the SLD 30 commander. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo)

Ronald B. Cortopassi, Space Launch Delta 30 executive director, attends his last SLD 30 stand-up meeting at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., July 13, 2022. As the executive director, Cortopassi provides continuity of senior management, offers technical advice and counsel in matters of policy and direction to the SLD 30 commander. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo)

Ronald B. Cortopassi, Space Launch Delta 30 executive director, possess for a picture on a family vacation. (Courtesy Photo)

Ronald B. Cortopassi, Space Launch Delta 30 executive director, possess for a picture on a family vacation. (Courtesy Photo)

Kathleen Cortopassi pinned Ronald B. Cortopassi, 30th Space Wing executive director, his retirement pin at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., July 20, 2022. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo)

Kathleen Cortopassi pinned Ronald B. Cortopassi, 30th Space Wing executive director, his retirement pin at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., July 20, 2022. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo)

United States Space Force Col. Robert Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, presented Ronald B. Cortopassi, 30th Space Wing executive director, received the medal for Outstanding Civilian Career Service at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., July 20, 2022. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo)

United States Space Force Col. Robert Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, presented Ronald B. Cortopassi, 30th Space Wing executive director, received the medal for Outstanding Civilian Career Service at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., July 20, 2022. (U.S. Space Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo)

Ronald B. Cortopassi, 30th Space Wing executive director, participates in pre-launch operations, while training to become the director of launch operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 29, 2020. Cortopassi was the first civilian, at Vandenberg AFB, to become the launch decision authority during an active launch operation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brittany E. N. Murphy)

Ronald B. Cortopassi, 30th Space Wing executive director, participates in pre-launch operations, while training to become the director of launch operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 29, 2020. Cortopassi was the first civilian, at Vandenberg AFB, to become the launch decision authority during an active launch operation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brittany E. N. Murphy)

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. --

As the Executive Director, Cortopassi was linked directly to the Delta Commander. He provided continuity of senior management, offered technical advice and counsel in matters of policy and direction. He watched out for the health and wellness of the civilian component on VSFB, and ensured SLD 30 functions as a world-class range and test facility.

“I enjoy what I do. I’m an engineer by trade,” said Cortopassi. “I like finding solutions, solving problems and ensuring the Commander has all the information about a particular mission.”

Cortopassi’s journey began in 1983. He was hired to be an aerospace engineer working with the NASA Space Shuttle program in the Western Space and Missile Center Range Safety Office. He moved up the leadership ladder, when he became the Chief of the Operations Safety Analysis Section in 1990. In 1992, he became the Chief of the Flight Analysis Office and eight years later, in 2000, he became the Chief Engineer for Safety. Finally, he was selected to serve as the SLD 30 Executive Director in 2006.

Cortopassi credits his success to the support of his wife, Kathleen, and his two daughters Mary-Elizabeth and Olivia.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family,” said Cortopassi. “They have been with me through every transition and major milestone in my career.”

In addition to every leader and person he has worked with, Cortopassi also credits two important individuals who supported him during his career, Tom Froemming and U.S. Air Force Col. (ret.) Jim Simmons.

They both encouraged Cortopassi’s curiosity to explore creative solutions.

“I was given requirements and they would encourage solutions outside of the box,” said Cortopassi. “These two individuals set me up for the incredible experiences I’d have with all of my future bosses and coworkers.”

Cortopassi’s accomplishments and contributions to SLD 30 expanded across writing collision avoidance, terminal area hazard and caution area determination, ship-hit probability and general mapping software for use by the flight safety analyst. Corrtopassi also became the first civilian to be the launch decision authority on console for the mission Glory Trip 236 GM-1, on Oct. 29, 2020.

Cotopassi’s accomplishments speak to the dedication of his work and those he surrounded himself with throughout the years.

“I think there’s no better time to be working at Vandenberg,” said Cortopassi. “Everyone is excited about what they bring to the mission. I’ve learned so much and enjoyed every moment of my 39 years because of the people.”

In 39 years, Cortopassi has seen it all.

“What I find interesting is that Vandenberg is regaining the excitement it had when I first arrived,” said Cortopassi. “Back then there were many more people on base, working new huge programs like Peacemaker and Space Shuttle. We were launching 30 times a year.”

Throughout the years, there has been some ups and downs in the commercial space manifest, but that has not stopped Vandenberg’s excitement in continuing the space mission.

“We are back to looking at over 20 launches in the coming 12 months, plus lots of community and government interest on commercial space, the Sentinel program, and some potential other new missions,” said Cortopassi. “It’s a very exciting time to be at Vandenberg!”

"Ron and his family are part of the very fabric of Team Vandenberg and it is difficult to capture Ron's impact on the base and in the community across his 39 years of service,” said United States Space Force Col. Robert Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander. “Who we are and our successes today are due directly to Ron's influence.  We are in his debt and wish them the best of luck in this next chapter of their lives.”