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Shotwell, Gwynne E., 1963-



Gwynne Shotwell (née Rowley) was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1963 and grew up in a nearby Chicago suburb of Libertyville. Shotwell chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Northwestern. She graduated from Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering in 1986 and returned for a master’s degree in applied mathematics, securing the degree in 1988.

Shotwell initially pursued a career in automotive engineering before returning for her graduate studies at Northwestern. In 1988, she joined Aerospace Corporation, an aerospace research center based in El Segundo, California. Her work there focused on thermal analysis, and she wrote numerous research papers on various aspects of small spacecraft design and vehicle re-entry operational risks. After ten years at Aerospace Corp., Shotwell left in 1998 to become the director of the space systems division at Microcosm Inc., a small company which specialized in building low-cost rocketry for the United States Air Force.

In 2002, Shotwell met Elon Musk, the former web entrepreneur who had just that year decided to break into the space industry by founding Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, (SpaceX). Musk’s vision for SpaceX was to use proven rocket technology to provide privatized, low-cost launches for private satellite companies as an alternative to contracting with NASA. The eventual goal was to create a reusable rocket to bring the costs of those launches even lower. Shotwell was hired as SpaceX’s vice president of business development, only the seventh employee of SpaceX.

As the company’s head of business development, Shotwell was in charge of selling the company’s standardized rocket launches to private companies. Since joining SpaceX in 2002, Shotwell has helped the company grow into a $21 billion business. She was instrumental in securing investment from NASA to develop a reusable launch rocket, the Falcon. In 2008, after the Falcon successfully reached orbit, NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion-dollar contract to develop a capsule capable of docking with and supplying the International Space Station. That same year, Shotwell became the President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX.

In addition to her distinguished career at SpaceX, Shotwell is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). She also is a Northwestern University trustee and a member of the Advisory Council for Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Gwynne Shotwell Collection

Identifier: 31/6/187

Gwynne Shotwell (née Rowley) was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1963 and grew up in a nearby Chicago suburb of Libertyville. The Gywnne Shotwell collection includes Shotwell’s 2018 Ralph Coats Roe Medal awarded by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Dates: 2018