Kathy Lueders, formerly NASA associate administrator of the Space Operations Mission Directorate, before speaking to the media on May 30, 2020, following SpaceX’s launch of the Demo-2 mission.
Kim Shiflett / NASA
Kathy Lueders, the most recent top human spaceflight official at NASA, has joined Elon Musk’s SpaceX after retiring from the agency a couple of weeks ago, CNBC has learned.
Lueders’ role will be general manager, and she will work out of the company’s “Starbase” facility in Texas, reporting directly to SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.
It’s a key hire for SpaceX as the company aims to make its massive Starship rocket safe to fly people in the coming years. Lueders, a respected expert in the sector, is already familiar with the company’s human spaceflight work to date.
The SpaceX Starship lifts off from the launchpad during a flight test from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on April 20, 2023.
Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images
SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Lueders’ hiring.
Lueders retired from NASA at the end of April, following a 31-year career with the agency. Before leading NASA’s human spaceflight program, she oversaw the culmination of its Commercial Crew program as manager, including the first SpaceX missions to carry NASA astronauts.
Earlier this year and shortly before she retired, SpaceX completed its sixth operational NASA crew launch — completing its initial contract for the agency. The company has received additional awards for eight more crewed missions.
Notably, Lueders follows in the footsteps of one of her recent NASA predecessors, William Gerstenmaier, who joined SpaceX in 2020 after more than a decade as the agency’s top human spaceflight official. Gerstenmaier is now SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability.
Correction: The headlines and a photo caption on this story have been updated to correct the spelling of Kathy Lueders’ name.