SpaceX hires former NASA top official for starship program

Oluwanifemi Ojo
Oluwanifemi Ojo
Former NASA top official, Kathy Lueders

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has recently hired a former NASA top official, Kathy Lueders, who recently retired from the agency.

CNBC learned from sources familiar with the new development that “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.”

This hire is seen as crucial to SpaceX’s efforts in ensuring the safety of its ambitious Starship rocket for human spaceflight. Lueders, who is well-regarded in the field, already has experience working on SpaceX’s human spaceflight initiatives.

According to the report, Lueders, who recently retired from a 31-year career at NASA, played a key role in selecting SpaceX’s Starship rocket for a $3 billion Artemis contract in 2021.

This contract aims to send the first U.S. astronauts to the moon since 1972, with private moon landers from other companies to be selected in a later contract program.

Meanwhile, Lueders is recognized as part of a group of officials responsible for overseeing NASA’s shift towards public-private contracting models.

This approach involves NASA supporting the development of private spacecraft through funding and purchasing rides for astronauts as a service, rather than owning and managing the spacecraft themselves.

This cost-saving method has proven successful, thanks in part to Lueders’ leadership and expertise.

It was concluded that Kathy Lueders’ move to join SpaceX mirrors that of her predecessor at NASA, William Gerstenmaier. Gerstenmaier held the position of top human spaceflight official at NASA for over a decade before joining SpaceX in 2020. He now serves as the company’s vice president of build and flight reliability.

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