In a scalding open letter, a handful of current and former Blue Origin employees have stated that they will not ride on the company’s rocket because it is not safe enough.
In July, Jeff Bezos launched the New Shepard rocket to the edge of space. Since that flight, Blue Origin has begun selling tickets, with four customers scheduled to go on October 12. According to the letter, Blue Origin’s leadership has ignored employees’ safety concerns to “make progress for Jeff” and speed up the launch of New Shepard.
Alexandra Abrams, who used to lead Blue Origin’s staff communications, is the only named author on the letter. On Thursday, she released the letter on the website Lioness, claiming that it was co-written by 20 other current and former Blue Origin employees. None of the coauthors was identified. The letter also claimed that Blue Origin has a culture of sexism, harassment, and intolerance for criticism.
The letter also claims that the company has a poor safety policy towards its rockets. The problems are so severe; the employees argue that they would not feel safe traveling on a Blue Origin rocket if given a chance.
“Many of us have spent our careers dreaming of helping to launch a crewed rocket into space and seeing it safely touch back down on Earth,” the employees wrote. “But when Jeff Bezos flew to space this July, we did not share his elation. Instead, many of us watched with an overwhelming sense of unease. Some of us couldn’t bear to watch at all.”
The employees make no mention of any safety concerns about Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. Instead, they described a workplace where already overburdened teams were given even more work without adequate staffing or budget increases.
In addition, the employees believe that a toxic environment, combined with a lack of comprehensive safety guidelines for the new commercial spaceflight industry, pushed the staff to favor speed over safety, increasing the likelihood that safety risks went unnoticed.
“Blue Origin has been lucky that nothing has happened so far,” one anonymous engineer contributed to the article. “Many of this essay’s authors say they would not fly on a Blue Origin vehicle. And no wonder — we have all seen how often teams are stretched beyond reasonable limits.”