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Fri, May 19, 2023

Former NASA Human Spaceflight Expert Joins SpaceX

Starship Team Welcomes Kathy Lueders

Kathy Lueders, the latest of an august line of NASA human spaceflight experts, has thrown in with Elon Musk’s SpaceX boffins for purpose of lending her expertise to the ongoing development of the company’s Starship spacecraft.

Over a distinguished, 31-year NASA career, Lueders—an engineer by training—alternately served as a quality engineer at the White Sands Test Facility, depot manager of the Space Shuttle program Orbital Maneuvering System and Reaction Control Systems division, Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Integration manager, and Commercial Crew (CCP) Program Manager. In June 2020, Lueders was elevated to the station of Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate, the position from which she retired in late-April 2023.

On 15 May 2023, only weeks after hanging up her NASA credentials, Lueders joined SpaceX as a Starship program general manager. Her new position will take Lueders to the company’s Boca Chica, Texas Starbase facility, from which she will report directly to SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell.

Lueders—who managed one of the NASA teams with which SpaceX worked during the development of its Dragon capsule and later occupied the office of Commercial Crew Program Manager at the time SpaceX launched the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission—promises to play a key role in SpaceX’s aspiration to see its Starship platform made safe and comfortable for fragile human spacefarers.

Lueders follows in the footsteps of William Gerstenmaier, one of her NASA predecessors who now functions as SpaceX’s vice-president of build and flight reliability. Gerstenmaier joined SpaceX in 2020 after more than a decade as NASA’s top human spaceflight official.

A self-admitted “space geek,” Lueders states she was drawn to her various jobs at NASA by virtue of their inherent challenges. "Together, we are solving problems every day and it's one of my favorite aspects of the job,” she remarked.



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