Vice President – Strategic Account Executive, NASA & Civil Space
Rita Willcoxon currently serves as Vice President – Strategic Account Executive, NASA & Civil Space within the Business Development & Strategy Group at Leidos. Mrs. Willcoxon is responsible for strengthening and advancing trusted relationships with NASA and civil space customers and for advancing strategic initiatives to foster growth within those accounts.
Mrs. Willcoxon brings over 35 years of experience in executive leadership, strategy, engineering, operations, program and project management with the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, Leidos/Dynetics Corporation, General Electric and the DoD. Prior to coming to Leidos, Mrs. Willcoxon worked for our Dynetics subsidiary as the Dynetics Human Lander System (DHLS) Integrated Product Team Lead responsible for the Assembly, Integration, Test and Launch. In this role, she led a team of Dynetics and subcontractors in the planning for assembly sequences and flows, manufacturing and integration process design, tooling design, acceptance and qualification test planning, and facility design required to integrate and test the DHLS Flight Vehicle, an uncrewed Flight Test Vehicle, and a Propulsion Qualification Vehicle. She also led the efforts with United Launch Alliance for integration of the DHLS vehicle elements into the Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle.
Mrs. Willcoxon spent the majority of her career at NASA. She served as the Director of Launch Vehicle Processing at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where she was responsible for processing, launch and recovery operations for three space shuttles – Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour – processing and launching of the ARES 1X Constellation vehicle, managing a $1B annual budget and a work force of over 5,400 civil service and contractors. Preceding that appointment, Mrs. Willcoxon served as Deputy Director of Shuttle Processing and in other key executive leadership positions at Kennedy Space Center. She led the Spaceport Engineering & Technology Directorate in support of the agency’s Space Shuttle, International Space Station, Launch Services Program and NASA advanced programs. Mrs. Willcoxon was appointed by the NASA Administrator to lead several cross-agency teams, including Reinvention of Station and Shuttle Utilization and the development of Agency Capability Roadmaps in support of NASA’s long term Exploration Mission.
Over the years, Mrs. Willcoxon earned numerous awards including the Silver Snoopy award, two Exceptional Achievement Medals, the Outstanding Leadership Medal, the Eagle Manned Mission Award, Rotary National Space Achievement Stellar Award, and an Exceptional Service Medal.
In 2015, Mrs. Willcoxon co-founded the Launch STEM Careers Project in Brevard County, FL for girls in grades 4 through college seniors. Launch STEM Careers engages girls in project-like hands-on activities to give them a better understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers. She is passionate about mentoring and developing students.