COLORADO SPRINGS — The Space Foundation has hired a new chief executive. The organization announced Thursday that Thomas E. “Tom” Zelibor, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, will start as its new CEO April 30.

He was previously chairman and CEO of Lightwave Logic Inc., Longmont, Colorado-based communications technology company developing next-generation photonic devices for high speed fiber-optic telecommunications and data communications.

The hiring, made after a five-month national search, comes as the Space Foundation holds its flagship event, the 33rd Space Symposium, April 3-6 here.

Zelibor will be at the symposium this week but will not have an active role since he doesn’t officially start until the end of April, according to Space Foundation spokeswoman Carol Hively.

Zelibor capped a 30-year Navy career in 2006 at the Naval War College, where he was dean of the College of Operational and Strategic Leadership. Prior to that, he had served as U.S. Strategic Command’s director of global operations and leader of Naval Space Command.

“Starting on day one, I am committed to listening, learning and collectively exploring how we can build on the great successes this world-renowned organization has achieved over many years,” Zelibor said in a statement.

Zelibor’s hiring concludes an executive search that began when Elliot Pulham, the Space Foundation’s CEO for 15 years, resigned in October amid criticism.

Space Foundation chief operating officer, Shelli Brunswick, has been serving as interim CEO since Pulham left.

Phillip Swarts is the military space reporter for SpaceNews. He previously covered space and advanced technology for Air Force Times, the Justice Department for The Washington Times, and investigative journalism for the Washington Guardian;...