SpaceX has hired NASA’s former chief of human spaceflight Kathy Lueders as the company continues to develop its Starship launch system to return humans to the moon and beyond.
The news was reported first by CNBC. According to that report, Lueders will work out of SpaceX’s Starbase launch and rocket development facility in southeastern Texas. Starbase is home to all Starship developments and was the site of that vehicle’s first orbital flight attempt in April. She will report to SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell.
Lueders brings her in-depth knowledge of the space agency’s processes and standards for human spaceflight. The space agency announced its retirement as Assistant Administration of the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) in late March. Her career at NASA spanned more than three decades and included stints in the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) programs.
Lueders has been working with SpaceX for many years. As head of SOMD, she oversaw Cargo and Crew Dragon missions to and from the ISS, including SpaceX’s first crewed mission for the agency.
While SpaceX has already completed six astronaut transport missions to and from the ISS — thus already demonstrating its human spaceflight heritage with NASA — the company plans to raise the bar significantly with Starship. That launch system will eventually be used to land humans on the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program, and CEO Elon Musk also envisions it as a space transport ship that could eventually reach Mars.