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Draper Laboratory’s CEO is replaced; reason is unclear

There's an Apollo 11 exhibit in the lobby of Draper Labs in Cambridge. Draper, in an earlier incarnation, played a major role in the US moonshot.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory removed its chief executive, Ken Gabriel, several weeks ago and has replaced him with board member Francis H. Kearney, who now serves as interim president and CEO, according to the lab’s website.

No announcement or reason for the transition had been given as of Wednesday. A Draper spokesman declined to comment.

Kearney has served on Draper’s board of directors since 2015. He retired from the Army in 2012 with the rank of lieutenant general, having served 35 years in a variety of roles. His expertise includes national security, leadership, counterterrorism, and organizational change, according to his West Point faculty Web page.


Draper Lab, of Cambridge, does research and development work in aerospace, defense, medical devices, and other areas.

Founded by Charles Stark Draper in 1932 as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Instrumentation Laboratory, Draper Lab became a major developer of inertial navigation systems for military aircraft, submarines, and spacecraft. It designed the guidance systems for the Apollo spacecraft that carried people to the moon, and for the US arsenal of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Spun off from MIT, it became an independent nonprofit corporation in 1973.

Gabriel joined Draper Lab as its CEO in 2014. He was previously a technology executive at Google and, before that, deputy director and acting director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at Follow him @GlobeTechLab.