March 4, 2024

Kathy Lueders, former deputy administrator of NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, following the launch of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, May 30, 2020.

Kim Shiftlet/NASA

Kathy Lueders is NASA’s newest top human spaceflight official, joining Elon Musk after retiring from the agency a few weeks ago, CNBC has learned. ) of SpaceX.

People familiar with the matter told CNBC that Lueders will take on the general manager role and that she will work out of the company’s “Starbase” facility in Texas, reporting directly to SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell.

It’s an important hire for SpaceX, as the company aims to safely fly people on its massive Starship rocket within the next few years. Lueders, a respected expert in the field, is already familiar with the company’s human spaceflight work to date.

A SpaceX Starship lifts off from the launch pad during a flight test at Starship Base 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.

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Lueders retired from NASA at the end of April after 31 years with the agency. Before leading NASA’s human spaceflight program, she oversaw the culmination of its commercial crew program as a manager, including the first SpaceX mission to carry NASA astronauts.

Earlier this year, shortly before she retired, SpaceX completed its sixth mission to launch NASA astronauts — completing its initial contract with the agency. The company has also been awarded an additional eight crewed missions.

Notably, Lueders follows in the footsteps of one of her most 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 construction and flight reliability.

Correction: The title and photo caption for this story have been updated to correct the spelling of Kathy Lueders’ name.

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