P. Thomas (Tom) Breakfield, III, is the Director, Safety and Mission Assurance, at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center. He was appointed to this position in August 1996. In this capacity, he has overall responsibility for KSC's safety, reliability, maintainability, quality and mission assurance programs.
From December 1985 until this appointment, he was Director, Payload Flight Operations. He was responsible for the management and direction of engineering and operations activities associated with the preparation of commercial and scientific payloads and experiments that are carried into space by the Space Shuttle. These responsibilities included assembly, integration, testing, documentation, installation, prelaunch checkout, orbiter interface verification, and postflight deintegration/deservicing of returnable payloads and experiments, including Spacelab. In addition to day-to-day operations and engineering management, coordination, and problem resolution, duties also involved long-range coordination and planning of processing and engineering support for future domestic and foreign scientific Space Shuttle payloads, and for International Space Station Alpha.
Breakfield graduated from David Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1962. He joined NASA/KSC in 1964, and has served as data systems/electronics engineer, involved in the development of real-time guidance and navigation data processing software for Saturn launch vehicles, Apollo launch data systems, and Apollo and lunar module data reduction software.
In 1971, he served on the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight Ad Hoc Committee for On-board Software, of the Information Management System Steering Group. In 1973, he was assigned to the newly formed Shuttle Launch Processing System (LPS)/Central Data Subsystem (CDS) design team. He was appointed Chief of the LPS Shuttle Ground Operations Simulation Branch in March 1977 and served concurrently as CDS Project Manager. In 1979, he was appointed Chief of the Shuttle LPS Division. In May 1983, Breakfield was assigned to the Shuttle Engineering Directorate, where he served as Acting Chief of the Shuttle Project Engineering Office and of the Guidance, Navigation, and Digital Systems Division. In December 1983, he was appointed Deputy Director, Shuttle Engineering.
Breakfield was awarded the NASA Certificate of Commendation, and in 1980, his simulation task team was awarded the NASA Group Achievement Award for their work in the design and development of the LPS Shuttle Simulator. In 1981, he was presented the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for outstanding leadership in support of the STS-1 launch. He also was presented the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 1988 for his contribution to STS Return-to-Flight, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1989 for his leadership in STS Payload Management. Breakfield has two sons, and lives with his wife, Lois, in Rockledge, Florida, where he is involved in community and church activities.