Boeing names new Space Station chief in latest change affecting program

FILE PHOTO: The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, atop a ULA Atlas V rocket, lifts off for an uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida December 20, 2019. REUTERS/Thom Baur

(Reuters) - Boeing Co's BA.N International Space Station program manager Mark Mulqueen will leave the company next month and be replaced by the senior official overseeing Boeing's Starliner astronaut capsule, a spokesman said on Friday.

Mulqueen’s retirement is the latest management switch-up to touch space station operations, as NASA’s space station program manager Kirk Shireman retires Friday to take a job in the private sector.

The move comes as the space station, a football field-sized research post 250 miles above the ground, undergoes a shift to commercial operations and as NASA increasingly welcomes companies to stimulate private space tourism.

John Mulholland, who managed Boeing’s Starliner program during a high-profile test mission failure last year, will take the helm of Boeing’s space station operations as the company renegotiates its decades-old contract with NASA.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the U.S. wing of the international space station on a contract worth roughly $20 billion since its conception in the late 1990’s. The company has built and managed much of the station for NASA.

Boeing’s senior vice president of space and launch, Jim Chilton, told employees in an email Friday that Mulholland’s new role will “reflect the continuing evolution of the International Space Station,” whose 20-year anniversary of housing humans in low-Earth orbit comes later this year.

NASA’s Kathy Lueders, who oversaw the program that funded Starliner’s development, was elevated to the space agency’s human spaceflight chief last week after predecessor Doug Loverro resigned.

Reporting by Joey Roulette; editing by Peter Henderson and Leslie Adler