Police and private investigators are searching for a Springfield man who vanished in New Mexico last weekend near a NASA satellite facility that he was visiting in his capacity as security chief of a Gaithersburg aerospace firm.

A spokesman for the Space Communications Co. said that Thomas Gehrts, 26, was last seen Saturday afternoon in the town of Las Cruces, N.M. After he failed to appear for work on Monday morning, the company reported him missing.

The firm has no reason to believe Gehrts' disappearance involved a security violation, according to the spokesman. "The young man is a very studious, conscientious and dedicated employe," he said. "He's just missing and we've got to find him." Before joining the firm eight months ago, he was in a U.S. Army security unit.

Space Communications is building a satellite relay station in White Sands, N.M. Some of its work for NASA is classified and Gehrts' duties included assuring that the company complied with security regulations, the spokesman said.

The New Mexico state police are searching for Gehrts. The firm also has retained The Investigators, a Texas company. The FBI has been notified, although an agent at its Albuquerque office said the bureau was not actively hunting for the missing man.