Top talent departs Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin as NASA lander fight escalates

Jeff Bezos flew to space late last month, but his company has lost top talent since the billionaire space founder came back to Earth.

At least 11 key leaders and senior engineers have left Blue Origin this summer, CNBC has learned, with many moving on in the weeks after Bezos’ spaceflight.

Two of the engineers, Nitin Arora and Lauren Lyons, this week announced jobs at other space companies: Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Firefly Aerospace, respectively.

Others quietly updated their LinkedIn pages over the past few weeks.

Each unannounced departure was confirmed to CNBC by people familiar with the matter. Those departures include the following people: New Shepard senior vice president Steve Bennett, chief of mission assurance Jeff Ashby (who retired), New Glenn senior director Bob Ess, New Glenn senior finance manager Bill Scammell, senior manager of production testing Christopher Payne, senior propulsion design engineer Dave Sanderson, senior HLS human factors engineer Rachel Forman, propulsion engineer Rex Gu, and rocket engine development engineer Gerry Hudak.

Those who announced they were leaving Blue Origin did not specify why, but frustration with executive management and a slow, bureaucratic structure is often cited in employee reviews on job site Glassdoor.

A company spokesperson emphasized Blue Origin’s growth in a statement to CNBC.

“Blue Origin grew by 850 people in 2020 and we have grown by another 650 so far in 2021. In fact, we’ve grown by nearly a factor of four over the past three years. We continue to fill out major leadership roles in manufacturing, quality, engine design, and vehicle design. It’s a team we’re building and we have great talent,” the spokesperson said.

Some of the engineers who left were part of Blue Origin’s astronaut lunar lander program. Bezos’ company lost its bid for a valuable NASA development contract in April when SpaceX was announced as the sole awardee under the space agency’s Human Landing System (HLS) program, winning a $2.9 billion contract.

But, despite the Government Accountability Office last month denying Blue Origin’s protest of NASA’s decision, the company has continued to escalate its fight to be a part of the Human Landing System program. Blue Origin company first launched a public relations offensive against SpaceX’s Starship rocket and then, on Monday, sued NASA in federal court.

Leave a Reply