SpaceX hires former NASA human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders: report

NASA human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders retired at the end of April 2023 after 31 years with the agency. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Kathy Lueders isn't out of the spaceflight game after all.

Lueders, who stepped down as NASA's human spaceflight chief at the end of April, has been hired by SpaceX, CNBC reported on Monday (May 15). 

She'll work out of the company's Starbase facility in South Texas, where development of the giant Starship deep-space transportation system is centered. Lueders will be a general manager, and she'll report directly to SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell, according to CNBC.

Related: SpaceX's 1st Starship launches on epic test flight, explodes in 'rapid unscheduled disassembly'

Lueders is already quite familiar with SpaceX's currently operational human spaceflight hardware, the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule.

During her most recent two roles at NASA — human spaceflight chief and leader of the agency's Commercial Crew Program — she worked with the company to launch multiple astronaut missions to the International Space Station.

The latest of these, called Crew-6, launched on March 2. The next, Crew-7, is expected to get off the ground this summer. 

As CNBC noted, Lueders' move is not unprecedented: Bill Gerstenmaier, who led NASA's human spaceflight program from 2005 to 2019, moved to SpaceX in early 2020, shortly after retiring from the space agency. He currently serves as vice president of build and flight reliability at the company.

CNBC learned of Lueders' new job from unnamed "people familiar with the matter." SpaceX has not publicly announced the hire.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.