Kathy Lueders Was NASA's Top Human Spaceflight Official. Now She Works for SpaceX

Another of NASA’s top human spaceflight officials has joined SpaceX. Kathy Leuders, the former associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, retired from NASA on May 1 after 31 years of service.  But this week, CNBC reports that Lueders has joined SpaceX at the company’s Starbase facility in Texas. She follows Bill Gerstenmaier, who retired from NASA in 2020 and became a senior executive at SpaceX as build and flight reliability vice president.

Lueders’ role will be general manager, reporting directly to SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell, according to CNBC. There has been no official announcement from SpaceX yet.

Kathy Lueders (left) monitors the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Dragon spacecraft on the Crew-6 mission on March 2, 2023. Also pictured are Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, center, and Benji Reed, senior director of Human Spaceflight Programs at SpaceX. Credit: NASA.

Lueders is no stranger to SpaceX and commercial spaceflight. During her two most recent roles at NASA she was the human spaceflight chief and leader of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Her quiet but efficient leadership and cooperation with SpaceX enabled the first astronaut mission to launch from the U.S. since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011, the SpaceX Demo-2 mission on Crew Dragon in 2020. Since then, the Crew Dragon has made several flights for both for NASA and private customers, proving the Commercial Crew concept. The Boeing Starliner is scheduled to take astronauts into space as soon as July 2023.

On April 27 on Twitter, Lueders said farewell to those she worked with at NASA and as a possible hint she wasn’t actually retiring completely, she added, “I will be taking some much-needed time off, but I’ll be back for my next adventure!”

Lueders is a respected expert in the space sector, and is already familiar with the company’s human spaceflight work. She could play an important role as SpaceX hopes to make its massive Starship rocket safe for human spaceflight in the next few years.