NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has selected W. Russ DeLoach to be the agency’s next chief of safety and mission assurance (SMA). DeLoach will transition into the role beginning Friday, Jan. 1, as his predecessor, Terrence W. Wilcutt, retires after serving NASA for more than 30 years.

“Russ truly understands NASA’s safety environment and protocols,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “His leadership will ensure NASA continues its safety first ideology across the entire agency.”

Since February 2019, DeLoach has served as the director of SMA at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where he led a dedicated team of experts to assure workforce safety and mitigate risks across the agency’s portfolio of human spaceflight. He previously held the same role at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he was responsible for the planning and execution of center and program SMA activities. In this capacity, he developed transformative SMA approaches to enable the success of Kennedy as the world’s premier multi-user spaceport.

DeLoach began his NASA career in 1987, on assignment as an intern in the Army Materiel Command’s Quality and Reliability Engineering training program. Returning to Kennedy, he conducted reliability and system safety analyses, as well as technical reviews and assessments of integrated ground systems, equipment, and operations for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. He advanced to become the SMA branch chief of Kennedy’s Shuttle Processing Directorate and shuttle processing mission assurance manager before becoming deputy director and, eventually, director of the center’s SMA program.

DeLoach holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida in Gainesville. 

Wilcutt has served as NASA’s chief of safety and mission assurance since 2011. During his tenure, he led the SMA Technical Authority for all of NASA’s missions, including the recent Crew-1 and Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launches. He advanced NASA’s safety culture program and strengthened NASA’s SMA education program by creating early- and mid-career cohort and leadership programs. 

For more information about NASA’s Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, visit: