About Kaplan Astronautics, LLC


Space Consulting


Michael Kaplan, Principal Consultant


Michael Kaplan is the Principal Consultant at Kaplan Astronautics, LLC located in Boulder, CO. He has over 35 years leadership experience across aerospace, satellite and systems domains working with the US Department of Defense, NASA, Boeing, Space Systems Loral and Ball Aerospace. His specialties span business development, strategic planning, marketing, product development, program management and systems engineering. 

Michael has also worked with Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance, ESA, DLR, CNES, Orbital, Thales Alenia, Israel Space Agency, Israel Aerospace Industries, Elbit Systems and numerous universities and research laboratories, and many other leading aerospace and high technology organizations.

While at NASA Headquarters, Michael created and led the development of several transformational
programs including the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. He also created the partnership between NASA and the DLR that enabled the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the world’s largest and most sophisticated airborne observatory. He led the project to a new start in a very demanding budget climate.

​At Boeing and SSL/MDA,, Michael led product and business development in space robotic and science missions where he was responsible for all aspects of the development of new space business (marketing, strategy, sales, teaming, acquisitions, R&D investment planning, IRAD project management, proposal team leadership and technical management.)

​Michael’s formal education started with a BSE from Princeton University in Aerospace & Mechanical Sciences & Engineering Physics. It continued with 2 Masters degrees from George Washington University, one in R&D Management and one in Electrical Engineering, with specialties in communications, antennas and controls.  He is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, has a patent involving advanced antenna technology and has authored numerous technical publications.



Dr. David B. Smith, Senior Consultant


Dr. David B. Smith has over 35 years of experience in designing space missions for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Boeing, Spectrum Astro, and SpaceDev. Selected career highlights include:


  • Designed navigation and spacecraft at JPL: Galileo, Voyager, Viking, Magellan, Mariner Venus  
  • Mars Exploration Chief Engineer at JPL
  • Technical Manager of Telerobotic Program at JPL
  • Developed architectures for the JPL Mars Exploration Program. 
  • Led and performed system cost trades at JPL and Boeing
  • Directed Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) LIDAR technology team at JPL
  • Led Lunar Lander design activities and R&D into Precision Landing & Hazard Avoidance technology at Boeing
  • Led Mission Design for Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter (JIMO) at Boeing
  • Created and developed JPL’s Team X concept 
  • Managed Advanced Concepts office at JPL
  • Process owner for independent costing process at JPL
  • Managed Section 702, Engineering and Architecture Office at JPL
  • Systems Manager of SIR-C radar missions, STS-59, and STS-68 at JPL
  • Principle Engineer for the Mars Program Architect and Systems Engineering Office
  • Manager of the New Product Development Office at JPL


Dr. Smith received his BS in Aerospace Engineering from West Virginia University, MS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California, and Ph.D. in Astrodynamics from the University of California at Los Angeles.





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