A former director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lew Allen, died Jan. 4 at the age of 84 in Potomac Falls, Va.

Allen, a retired U.S. Air Force general and nuclear physicist, led the Pasadena, Calif.-based lab from 1982 until 1990. Prior to that, he served as Air Force chief of staff, overseeing the establishment of Air Force Space Command.

The West Point graduate entered the Air Force in 1946 and flew B-29 and B-36 bombers until he entered a master’s program at the University of Illinois in 1950, eventually earning a master’s degree in nuclear physics and a doctorate in physics.

During his lengthy Air Force career, Allen held a number of intelligence positions, including director of the National Security Agency, chief of the Central Security Service and commander of Air Force Systems Command.