SpaceX has hired NASA’s former head 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 first reported by CNBC. According to that reporting, Lueders will work out of SpaceX’s Starbase launch and rocket development facility in southeast Texas. Starbase is home to all Starship development and was the location of that vehicle’s first orbital flight attempt in April. She will report to SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell.
Lueders brings with her intimate knowledge of the space agency’s processes and standards for human spaceflight. The space agency announced her retirement as associate administration of Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) at the end of March. Her career at NASA spanned more than three decades and included stints on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) programs.
Lueders has been working with SpaceX for many years. As head of the SOMD, she oversaw the 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 transportation missions to and from the ISS — and thus already proven its human spaceflight heritage with NASA — the company is planning on considerably upping the ante 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 deep space transportation carrier that may eventually reach Mars.