Gwynne Shotwell

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Gwynne Shotwell
Gwynne Shotwell at 2018 Commercial Crew announcement.jpg
Shotwell in August 2018
Gwynne Rowley

(1963-11-23) November 23, 1963 (age 57)
Alma materNorthwestern University (BS, MS)
Known forThe Aerospace Corporation, Microcosm Inc, SpaceX
TitlePresident and chief operating officer of SpaceX

Gwynne Shotwell (née Rowley; born November 23, 1963) is an American businesswoman and engineer. She is the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, an American space transportation company, where she is responsible for day-to-day operations and company growth.[1]

As of 2020, she is listed as the 49th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.[2] Shotwell is included in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2020.[3]

Shotwell was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2020 for bringing affordable, commercially competitive space transportation to NASA and the US National Security Space Launch.

Early life[edit]

Shotwell was born in Evanston, Illinois, as the middle of three daughters to a brain surgeon and an artist, and was raised in Libertyville, Illinois.[4] In 1969, she watched a television broadcast of the Apollo 11 mission with her family, but remembers finding it "boring" and was not interested in space at the time. Shotwell excelled in both academics and athletics in high school, where she was on the cheerleading and Varsity basketball teams while achieving at the top of her class.[4] Her interests changed during high school after her mother took her to a panel discussion at the Illinois Institute of Technology by the Society of Women Engineers, where a mechanical engineer in particular inspired Shotwell to become an engineer.[5] Following this, she decided to apply to Northwestern University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, and later a Master of Science degree in applied mathematics.[4][6]


At the beginning of her career, Shotwell had an interview with IBM on the day of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, which disturbed her and she did not get a job offer. Instead, Shotwell took a job in the automotive industry at Chrysler Corporation's management training program, which she initially enjoyed[6] but later grew tired of[4] and left to return to Northwestern for her graduate degree.[7]

In 1988, Shotwell began work at the El Segundo research center of The Aerospace Corporation, and did technical work on military space research and development contracts. An early project she worked on was STS-39.[6] During a ten-year tenure, she worked in thermal analysis.[4] Shotwell worked in both space systems engineering and project management positions.[8]

She left The Aerospace Corporation in 1998 to become director of the space systems division at Microcosm Inc.[4] There, she served on the executive committee and was responsible for business development.

Shotwell left Microcosm in 2002 to join SpaceX, a private, commercial, space exploration company founded by Elon Musk in the same year.[9] She convinced Musk that SpaceX should hire a dedicated employee to work on business development full-time during a visit to the company, but had not planned to join the company herself. Shotwell took the job two weeks later.[10] Shotwell was promoted to company president following her role in the successful negotiation of the first Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA in December 2008, which was enabled by SpaceX's first successful launch of the Falcon 1 on its fourth attempt earlier in the year.[11] She was responsible for leading the effort on building the Falcon Vehicle manifest to over 50 launches, generating $5 billion in revenue. This included a commercial connection to the International Space Station for resupplying services, where they were able to deliver cargo and supplies to the astronauts.[8] Shotwell is currently the President and COO of SpaceX, responsible for day-to-day operations and managing all customer and strategic relations to support company growth.[12]

She oversaw the first landing of an orbital rocket's first stage on land and on an ocean platform, the first relaunch and landing of a used orbital rocket, the first controlled flyback and recovery of a payload fairing, and the first re-flight of a commercial cargo spacecraft.[8] SpaceX has a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA to deliver astronauts and science instruments to the International Space Station. On May 30, 2020, SpaceX became the first private company to launch two astronauts to Earth orbit.[13]

On February 6, 2019, Polaris Industries announced that Shotwell would join their board of directors on March 1, 2019.[14]

Shotwell has served on the California Space Authority Board of Directors and its executive committee after she was elected in 2004. She has served as an officer on the AIAA Space Systems Technical Committee and participates in a variety of STEM related programs. She led a committee that raised over $350,000 in scholarships for the Frank J. Redd Student Competition over 6 years.[15]

Public outreach[edit]

Shotwell gave a TEDx Talk at TEDxChapmanU in June 2013 on the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.[16] She speaks regularly to business audiences and gave a talk for the "Captains of Industry" series at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security in June 2014 on private entrepreneurial accomplishments in advancing spaceflight technology.[17]

At the 2018 TED conference, Shotwell was interviewed by Chris Anderson about the future plans of SpaceX.[18]

At the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on September 28, 2018, Shotwell's talk was titled "Launching Our Future" and she discussed her vision and advancements for aerospace technology, as well as why diversity and the inclusion of women are necessary for us to advance as a society.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Shotwell is married to Robert Shotwell, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She has two children from her first marriage to Leon Gurevich.[20]

Honors and awards[edit]


  1. ^ "Gwynne Shotwell: Executive Profile & Biography". Business Week. New York: Bloomberg. December 1, 2011. Archived from the original on December 1, 2011. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  2. ^ "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women". Forbes. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  3. ^ "Gwynne Shotwell: The 100 Most Influential People of 2020". Time. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "How I Made It: SpaceX exec Gwynne Shotwell". Los Angeles Times. June 7, 2013. Archived from the original on August 2, 2019.
  5. ^ Berger, Eric (2021). Liftoff. William Morrow and Company. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-0-06-297997-1.
  6. ^ a b c Berger, Eric (2021). Liftoff. William Morrow and Company. pp. 100–102. ISBN 978-0-06-297997-1.
  7. ^ Strube, Frank (April 21, 2014). "It all Started with a Suit: The Story Behind Shotwell's Rise to SpaceX - Via Satellite -". Via Satellite. Archived from the original on March 2, 2020. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "Gwynne Shotwell". SSPI. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  9. ^ Gwynne Shotwell | Closing Plenary | SkollWF 2018, retrieved April 18, 2018
  10. ^ Berger, Eric (2021). Liftoff. William Morrow and Company. pp. 95–97. ISBN 978-0-06-297997-1.
  11. ^ Berger, Eric (2021). Liftoff. William Morrow and Company. pp. 217–222. ISBN 978-0-06-297997-1.
  12. ^ SpaceX AsiaSat8 Launch Press Kit (PDF), August 2014, p. 15
  13. ^ Business, Jackie Wattles, CNN (May 30, 2020). "SpaceX and NASA launch Crew Dragon in Florida: Live updates". CNN. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  14. ^ "Gwynne Shotwell Appointed to Polaris Industries Inc. Board of Directors". Polaris Industries.
  15. ^ "WITI - Gwynne Shotwell". Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  16. ^ "Engineering America: Gwynne Shotwell at TEDxChapmanU". Youtube. TEDx Talks. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  17. ^ a b Shotwell, Gwynne (June 4, 2014). Discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX. Atlantic Council. Event occurs at 22:35–26:20. Retrieved June 9, 2014. This [reusable launch vehicle technology], all this innovation is being done by SpaceX alone, no one is paying us to do it. The government is very interested in the data we are collecting on this test series. ... This is the kind of thing that entrepreneurial investment and new entrants/innovators can do for an industry: fund their own improvements, both in the quality of their programs and the quality of their hardware, and the speed and cadence of their operations.
  18. ^ TED (May 14, 2018), SpaceX's plan to fly you across the globe in 30 minutes | Gwynne Shotwell, retrieved May 16, 2018
  19. ^ GHC (December 17, 2018), Gwynne Shotwell — Launching Our Future | Gwynne Shotwell, retrieved March 24, 2019
  20. ^ ŠVANCARA ·, VLASTIMIL. "Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO". ElonX.
  21. ^ "2017 Satellite Executive of the Year: Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO, SpaceX". Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  22. ^ "Gwynne Shotwell". Forbes.
  23. ^ "Gwynne Shotwell: The 100 Most Influential People of 2020". Time. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  24. ^ "A Conversation With Gwynne Shotwell, 2020 Satellite Executive of the Year". Retrieved May 1, 2021.

External links[edit]

  • Shotwell, Gwynne (February 3, 2016). Gwynne Shotwell comments at Commercial Space Transportation Conference. Commercial Spaceflight. Event occurs at 2:43:15–3:10:05. Retrieved February 4, 2016. (after 2:53:00, and a review of video of several failed attempts to land a booster rocket on a drone ship, and then a successful return of an orbital first stage to a landing pad) It's awesome. You know, I don't think you get that kind of thrill in banking. It's extraordinary.