Virginia Tech® home

Alok Das

B.E., Electronics and Communications Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, 1976
M.E., Aeronautical Engineering, Indian Institute of Science,  1978
Ph.D, Aerospace Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1982

When John F. Kennedy informed the world that the U.S. should have a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s, he probably had no idea how many young lives he was impacting. More than 8000 miles away Alok Das was a teenager in India, and learning of the challenge to NASA sparked his enthusiasm for space exploration. Today, Das is a pioneer in the development of smart space structures, has evolved new critical technologies and created novel concepts for space systems.

Das attended the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India, where he earned his undergraduate degree in electronics and communications engineering in three years and within five years of starting, had his master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. Graduating as the number one student in his class, the Indian Space Research Organization quickly brought him on board as an engineer to design attitude control systems for some of India’s initial earth observation satellites. His two-year stint at this organization made him realize he “wanted to learn more.” He applied to a half a dozen schools, and opted to attend Virginia Tech.

Following his time as a Virginia Tech research associate, he was placed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, and the Air Force hired him as a civil servant in July of 1984. That same year he started splitting his time between Edwards and the Phillips Laboratory at the Kirkland, New Mexico Air Force Base. In 1994 he was part of a revolutionary NASA program that demonstrated the potential of small spacecraft to greatly reduce the cost of future civil space missions. In 1995 he led the DoD participation in the formation and implementation of the NASA New Millennium Program, pioneering NASA’s vision of frequent, affordable, capable scientific missions in the 21st Century.

In 1998 Das created and led the Innovative Concepts Group, creating many of the Air Force’s high-visibility, multi agency transformational space concepts such as TechSat21 and XSS-11. In the last decade, Das has spearheaded the development of a technology investment strategy for the DoD’s $15 billion transformational communications program, a critical component of net-centric warfare. He led the definition of the TacSat-2, the Air Force’s premier experiment to enable the use of small satellites for tactical operations and was a member of NASA’s $300 million Aerospace Technology Enterprise review committee on pioneer revolutionary technology, the incubator for revolutionary technologies for future NASA missions.

Select Awards and Recognitions
Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Fellow of the Air Force Research Laboratory
The International Society for Optics and Photonics Smart Structures and Materials Achievement Award
Distinguished Presidential Rank Award