Who Really Runs SpaceX? Not Elon Musk But COO Gwynne Shotwell, Reveals Report

Zinger Key Points
  • The organizational structure at SpaceX contrasts sharply with Musk's management at Tesla.
  • Besides SpaceX and Tesla, Musk counts himself as the founder of The Boring Company and Neuralink.

SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell reportedly oversees nearly every team at the rocket manufacturing company, rather than CEO Elon Musk.

What Happened: Twenty-one executives, including those leading SpaceX’s satellite internet business Starlink, Falcon launch business, and the development of Starship, report directly to Shotwell, The Information reported, citing an organizational chart obtained by the publication.

This includes top engineer Mark Juncosa, sales executive Stephanie Bednarek, and Chief Financial Officer Bret Johnsen.

Musk, meanwhile, has only four executives reporting to him, including Shotwell. The other executives reporting to Musk are materials engineering executive Charles Kuehmann, Jacob McKenzie, who oversees the Raptor engines used in Starship, and Terrence O’Shaughnessy, who leads a special programs group focused on government projects.

The organizational structure at SpaceX contrasts sharply with Musk’s management at Tesla, where he has dozens of direct reports. Tesla had a total employee headcount of 140,473 at the end of 2023, before announcing a 10% layoff in April. In contrast, SpaceX has around 13,000 employees.

Why It Matters: Besides SpaceX and Tesla, Musk counts himself as the founder of The Boring Company and Neuralink. Following recent mass layoffs at Tesla, which included the departure of many senior executives, a Stanford University School of Engineering professor and organizational psychologist noted that Musk faces a “recipe for CEO overload and being a bottleneck.”

SpaceX achieved a valuation of $180 billion through a tender offer in December, making it one of the most valuable privately held companies. In comparison, the publicly listed aerospace company Boeing Co. has a market capitalization of $107.48 billion.

Earlier this month, Musk reiterated his goal for SpaceX to take over 90% of all of Earth’s payload to orbit later this year. According to data from analytics firm Bryce Tech, SpaceX launched about 429,125 kgs of spacecraft upmass in the first quarter alone, followed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) with 29,426 kgs. SpaceX’s American rival, United Launch Alliance, launched only 1,285 kgs of spacecraft upmass in the same quarter.

SpaceX is now preparing for the fourth launch of its Starship vehicle, aimed at returning humans to the Moon, scheduled for June 5, pending regulatory approval.

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Photo via Daniel Oberhaus on Flickr

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