WASHINGTON — NASA has officially consolidated its human spaceflight program, including the international space station, deep space exploration, and commercial cargo- and crew-transport operations, under a single mission directorate.

The new Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate comprises what used to be the Space Operations and Exploration Systems mission directorates. Bill Gerstenmaier, formerly the Space Operations associate administrator, will head the new directorate. 

NASA announced the long-anticipated merger in an Aug. 12 press release. The agency said  “the transition and personnel assignments will take several weeks to finalize.”

Douglas Cooke, previously the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate’s top official, would have been deputy administrator of the HEO directorate.

Cooke will serve briefly in that capacity until he retires from NASA Oct. 3, according to an Aug. 16 statement from the space agency.

NASA did not immediately respond to a request for details about NASA’s choice for a full-time HEO deputy associate administrator. A likely candidate, former Exploration Systems Deputy Associate Administrator Laurie Leshin, is leaving NASA in September to return to academia. Lynne Cline, the Exploration Systems deputy associate administrator for policy and plans, is another possibility.