In a memo to agency staff, Loverro explained that his departure had nothing to do with the work NASA was accomplishing.
Douglas Loverro, NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) has quit after less than six months in the post and less than two weeks before SpaceX are due to launch humans to the ISS.
According to NPR, a source "familiar with the situation" said the issue had to do with a violation of NASA rules or regulations. The position will be temporarily filled by Loverro's deputy Ken Bowersox as the agency prepares for the first crewed launch from USA soil in nearly a decade.
Loverro's resignation triggered a storm of speculation after it was announced.
Congress is demanding more information about Loverro's departure after it came about a week before the maiden voyage of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule next Wednesday. The final decision to go or not to go on that mission was to be yours.
Last month, NASA awarded three contracts, worth almost $1 billion combined, to a team led by Blue Origin, a team led by Dynetics and to SpaceX.
The immediate effect of Loverro's departure is hard to calculate. "I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission", Loverro wrote in an May 19 "all hands" email to NASA employees.
"The risks we take, whether technical, political, or personal, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly". Now, in the rest of the time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which only I must bear the consequences. "And therefore, it is with a very, very heavy heart that I write to you today to let you know that I have resigned from NASA effective May 18th, 2020".
The announcement took the space community by surprise.
NASA's Space Launch System Program, which is critical to Artemis and was overseen by Loverro, has experienced major cost overruns. Deputy Associate Administrator Ken Bowersox will serve as the acting leader of the directorate. Bowersox is now the deputy associate administrator of the HEO directorate, and has held multiple positions in the agency, including serving as a crew member on five spaceflights.
Ken Bowersox, a five-time shuttle flier and former commander of the International Space Station, will take over for Loverro.
"Bowersox has previously led HEO in a time of transition, and NASA has the right leadership in place to continue making progress on the Artemis and Commercial Crew programs", NASA said in a statement. The chair of the House space subcommittee also tweeted about the resignation. But Hale expressed his confidence in Bowersox. There's one big hurdle left to clear before the launch can get the go-ahead: it has to pass a flight readiness review.