Space Network employee Melissa Diaz Credit: NASA
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Employee Spotlight: Melissa Diaz

By Tessa Iglesias

August 30, 2019

This blog post was written prior to a reorganization of ESC’s projects and networks in support of the agency’s commercialization effort. Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated and may contain broken links or outdated information. For more information about the reorganization, click here.

Spending her days at the White Sands Complex in sunny Las Cruces, NM, Melissa Diaz boasts an enviable resume. She has clocked 16 years and counting at NASA supporting the Space Network (SN).

A graduate of New Mexico State University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematical science, Melissa joined the SN at White Sands right out of college in 2003 as a hardware engineer. The SN is comprised of a constellation of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) in geosynchronous orbit, and a supporting set of ground stations, which includes White Sands, the Blossom Point Remote Station (BPRS) and the Guam Remote Station (GRS).

Since her start at White Sands, Melissa completed a master’s degree in industrial engineering, and now serves as the White Sands site manager and the Space Communications and Network Services contract SN department manager. She not only oversees 350 people, the SN ground systems at White Sands, BPRS, GRS and the health and safety of the TDRS spacecraft, but she is also the first and only female site manager in the history of the White Sands Complex.

Being both female and Latin American, lowly-represented groups within engineering fields, Melissa has gone through many hurdles.

“I always had to try harder when I saw that I was the only woman in the room. I wanted to make a good example of that, so that in the future I’m not the only woman in the room,” she said. Taking on a mentorship role for women (and even men) is very important to her. “I definitely want to give back and make things better for next generations. I’m always stressing to them to make themselves useful and available, so that when a project comes up, their name comes up and people say ‘I like working with that person’ or ‘that person has done a good job in the past.’”

One of the highlights of Melissa’s career was from 2008 to 2013 when she was the White Sands Complex Task Order Lead for TDRS-K, the eleventh TDRS built. “I went from a very new manager to a seasoned one on that project,” she said. After TDRS-K launched, Melissa helped pave the way for a world where it’s common to see women in engineering by training the succeeding two TDRS managers, both of whom were women. 

In addition to her work on TDRS, Melissa was the deputy project manager for the SN Transitional Architecture Research project, which provided the capability for SN users to utilize a TDRS from the Blossom Point Remote Station, in Welcome, MD.

Melissa ensures that she satisfies the SN’s mission, and keeps everyone under her supervision as site manager safe, happy and challenged in the workplace.

I always had to try harder when I saw that I was the only woman in the room. I wanted to make a good example of that, so that in the future I’m not the only woman in the room.

— Melissa Diaz

White Sands Complex Site Manager