People

Leon Alkalai

Leon Alkalai

Formal First Name
Leon
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Dr. Leon Alkalai has been at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1989, where he has held various management and research and development positions. He retired from the laboratory after 32 years of service. Today, Dr. Alkalai is involved in the world of space entrepreneurship as an investor and mentor. He has been a consultant to the commercial technology investment and development industry since 2001, focused on areas of micro-electronics, strategic planning, technology investment, venture funds, angel funds, and seed round investment funds.

Professional Experience


Academic History

CAREER AT JET PROPULSION LABORATORY

  • Dr. Alkalai started his career at JPL after receiving his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • For the first 14 years of his career, he was a leader in Advanced Avionics Systems, Micro-Systems, Micro/Nano Spacecraft, and related technologies.
  • He has been at the forefront of JPL's mission project formulation as a manager and a business Capture Lead.
  • He has led a new pioneering effort to formulate the next robotic mission to explore the Interstellar Medium, following the detection of the solar Heliopause by the Voyager-1 robotic spacecraft in 2013.

  • He has led the Medical Engineering Forum, a pilot project to apply space technology to medical engineering.


CAREER TIMELINE AT JPL

  • 1992 to 1995 - Lead for the Advanced Avionics Systems group 
  • 1996 to 1998 - Lead for the New Millennium Program
  • 1998 to 2001 - Lead for the Center for Integrated Space Microsystems, which was developing highly integrated systems on a chip and pioneering new micro and nanosatellites. 
  • 2001 to 2002 - Assistant Division Manager for Avionics Systems
  • 2003 to 2004 - Capture Lead for MoonLight
  • 2005 - Capture Lead for MoonRise
  • 2005 to 2007 - Capture Lead for GRAIL mission to the moon, awarded in 2007 and launched in 2011
  • 2008 to 2010 - Capture Lead for MoonRise
  • 2011 to 2012 - Capture Lead for INSIGHT mission to Mars, awarded in 2012, launched in May of 2018, and successfully landed on Mars in November 2018
  • 2012 - JPL Fellow
  • 2016 - Lead for JPL’s Discovery Proposal, to explore and map the surface of Venus using advanced radar technology.
  • 2016 to 2019 - Manager of the Office of Strategic Planning, responsible for developing a long-term vision and strategic plan and innovating new pathways for the future of JPL.
  • 2019 to 2021 - Manager of the Office of Strategic Partnerships, responsible for developing and managing JPL strategic partnerships both domestically and internationally.
  • 2020 - Project Manager of the VITAL Ventilator Project


CURRENT APPOINTMENTS

  • Co-Founder and Board Member at Verrix
  • Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Continuum Space Systems
  • Chief Executive Officer of Mandala Space Ventures
  • General Partner at Explorer 1 Fund
  • Tech Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Full Member of the International Academy of Astronautics


AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS

  • In 2012, Dr. Alkalai received the NASA Individual Distinguished Achievement Medal for the successful formulation of the GRAIL mission to map the gravity field of the Moon. 
  • In 2019, he received his second Individual Distinguished Achievement Medal for the successful formulation of InSight and for the successful commission of InSight on Mars. 
  • In 2020, he received the JPL Magellan Award for his contributions to the VITAL project and to the JPL COVID-19 response. 


MEDIA

  • Dr. Alkalai has appeared as a guest on Real Vision.