Image: Mandel Ngan (Getty Images)
Jeff Bezos may have felt triumphant as he sailed into space in July, but apparently the same cannot be said of other Blue Origin employees. Last Friday, the CNBC said more than a dozen engineers have left the company in recent weeks. Many of them even left the company to occupy high-ranking positions in the competition.
Among the top names to depart Blue Origin were Nitin Arora, lead engineer for the lunar landing program, who said in a LinkedIn post that she had joined SpaceX; and Lauren Lyons, who announced earlier this month that she has assumed the role of COO of Firefly Aerospace. THE Fox Business confirmed two other prominent departures: former NASA astronaut Jeff Ashby and Steve Bennet, who helped direct the New Shepard launch program — the same one that took Bezos and his crew into space orbit.
A spokesman for Blue Origin told the CNBC that despite the turnover, the company is growing at a rapid pace. In 2020 alone, 850 people were hired, and a further 650 have been added so far in 2021. “We continue to fulfill key leadership roles in engine and vehicle manufacturing, quality and design. It is a team that we are building and we have great talents”, commented the spokesperson.
Still, these high-profile matches are a good reminder that investing in the space market can be difficult, even if you’re the richest man in the world. We saw this late last year, when Blue Origins’ director of operations left the company, in the wake of several lost government contracts and a barrage of delays in the development of the company’s space technology.
Blue Origin opens investigation against SpaceX
Recently, Bezos’ company lost an important contract with NASA to SpaceX, which will now be responsible for developing a lunar module for the Artemis program. Earlier this year, the US space agency backtracked on initial plans to award development contracts to various companies for the Human Landing System (HLS) program, instead of providing $2.9 billion in funding exclusively to SpaceX.
Due to the end of the contract, Blue Origin filed a lawsuit against NASA’s contract with Elon Musk’s space company. In fact, Bezos himself wrote an open letter to the agency’s administrator, Bill Nelson, saying that Blue Origin would cover billions in costs if they could get a share of the contract. So far, NASA has not responded.