Blue Origin employees claim Jeff Bezos’ Rocket Company is sexist, toxic and lax about flight safety – .

Blue Origin employees claim Jeff Bezos’ Rocket Company is sexist, toxic and lax about flight safety – .

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.
Image: Patrick Semansky (PA)

Scathing essay written by nearly two dozen current and former Blue Origin employees paints a grim picture of working conditions at the company and how the burgeoning space race among billionaires is compromising flight safety .

On July 20, 2021, Jeff Bezos, along with three other passengers, climbed on top of a New Shepard rocket and flew to an altitude of 62 miles above sea level, becoming the second billionaire to reach space. Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Bezos, had officially entered the space tourism industry, joining Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, who had completed a exploit a few weeks earlier.

The flight beyond the Kármán Line was an important milestone for Blue Origin, but the cost of this achievement was considerable, as a trial published in Lioness makes it painfully clear. The essay was written by Alexandra Abrams, former head of company employee communications, and 20 other former and current Blue Origin employees.

New Shepard launches July 20, 2021.

New Shepard launches July 20, 2021.
Image: Tony gutierrez (PA)

The authors make some very serious claims about the work culture at the company and how a push to increase the launch frequency of the New Shepard rocket “seriously compromises flight safety.” Many authors have claimed that they would not fly on a Blue Origin vehicle: “And no wonder we have all seen how often teams are stretched beyond reasonable limits,” they wrote.

The Federal Aviation Administration took note of the test, prompting the regulator to look into allegations of lax safety at Blue Origin, as SpaceNews reports. In an email to Gizmodo, the FAA said it “takes every security claim seriously and the agency is reviewing the information.” Blue Origin may be asked to make changes if the review finds anything worth implementing. Since 2016, no New Shepard flights have had an issue (to our knowledge).

The allegations of persistent sexism in the Blue Origin workplace were particularly alarming. Senior leaders are “systematically inappropriate with women,” the authors allege, and there is a “clear bias against women”, who are repeatedly silenced when they voice their concerns. As the authors write:

Concerns over the New Shepard robbery were systematically shut down and women were humiliated for raising them. When a man was fired for poor performance, he was allowed to leave with dignity, even a leaving party. Yet when a female leader who had dramatically improved her department’s performance was fired, she was ordered to leave immediately, with security hovering until she left the building five minutes later.

The authors describe toxic work environments in which employees are pushed to their limits. Blue Origin openly models itself on SpaceX, with notes from senior executives admitting that “burnout was part of their work strategy,” according to the essay. Working at Blue Origin can be “dehumanizing,” the authors wrote, with employees “terrified of the potential consequences of exposing the richest man on the planet.”

That a problematic work environment exists at Blue Origin is not entirely surprising. As we have previously reported, the company is experiencing an exodus of senior officials.

The “driving force” of this essay, as the authors point out, has to do with the issue of security. Before Bezos hit suborbital space, a common question asked at high-level meetings was, “When will Elon or Branson fly?” As the authors claim, “making progress for Jeff” seemed to “trump security issues that would have slowed the schedule.” The issues raised in this essay make it clear that the billionaire space race is real, not a fake media story.

Senior executives, increasingly impatient with the few flights performed each year, have started aiming for 40 launches in 12 months, the authors say. The rate of launch was indeed slow; New Shepard has flown three times in 2019, once in 2020, and four times so far in 2021, with the next launch slated for October 12. safety ”, and, in the opinion of an engineer who contributed to this trial,“ Blue Origin was lucky that nothing had happened so far. A major complaint is that employees are being asked to work excessively long hours and perform work that is “way beyond what would be manageable for a team double the size.” As the authors claim, senior executives at Blue Origin are not providing teams with sufficient resources.

“At a minimum, Jeff Bezos and the rest of Blue Origin’s management need to be held accountable and must learn how to run a respectful and responsible business before they can arbitrarily use their wealth and the resulting power to create a role model. for the future of humanity, ”the authors conclude. “But beyond that, we should all collectively, urgently, raise this question: as a society, should we allow ego-motivated individuals with endless caches of money and very little responsibility to be those who shape this future? “

We reached out to Blue Origin for comment.

“Ms. Abrams was fired for cause two years ago after repeated warnings over problems with federal export control regulations,” according to a spokesperson for Blue Origin. “Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous opportunities for employees, including an anonymous 24/7 hotline, and will promptly investigate any new malpractice complaints. We maintain our safety record and believe New Shepard is the safest spacecraft ever designed or built. “

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith emailed staff Thursday to respond to claims made in the essay, as an insider reports.

“It’s especially difficult and painful, for me, to hear complaints that attempt to characterize our entire team in a way that doesn’t match the character and abilities I see at Blue Origin every day,” Smith wrote. .

The CEO said the safety concerns raised in the trial were “uninformed and simply incorrect” and employees should bring their concerns to him, adding that Blue Origin does not tolerate harassment or discrimination in the workplace. job.

As noted, New Shepard’s next launch is slated for October 12. The second crewed launch of this reusable rocket will include Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Planet, and Glen de Vries, vice president of life sciences and healthcare at Dassault. Systems, as well as two anonymous passengers.

Suite: Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo flights cleared to resume after FAA investigation.


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