Nearly a dozen Blue Origin employees, including executives and engineers, have left Jeff Bezos' company in recent months amid intense competition among private space firms, FOX Business confirmed on Friday.
The prominent departures included Bob Ess, a former NASA astronaut who served as Blue Origin's chief of mission assurance, Jeff Ashby, who was senior director of the New Glenn orbital launch vehicle program and Steve Bennett, senior vice president of the New Shepard launch program.
Several engineers involved in the production and design of Blue Origin vessels, including engine propulsion, have also left, with two leaving positions at rival companies such as Elon Musk's SpaceX. In the last months, at least 11 executives, managers or engineers left the company in total.
Some of the exits, including that of Ashby, occurred after Blue Origin completed its first manned spaceflight. In late July, Bezos and three other passengers completed a 10 minute suborbital flight from Red Bull's new Shepard rocket.
SPACEX BOSS ELON MUSK SAYS STARSHIP WILL LAND HUMANS FOR MOON 'PROBABLY SOONER' THAN 2024.
CNBC was the first to report on recent employee turnover at the firm.
Blue Origin pushed back on the notion that it was experiencing an exodus of top talent, asserting that employee turnover was normal given the industry's competitive nature and pressures related to the COVID - 19 pandemic. The company said its senior leadership team is intact and touted hirings made in the last few months, including former Honeywell executive Linda Cova as its senior vice president of operations and Aerojet Rocketdyne alum Mike Eilola as vice president for engines.
Blue Origin grew by 850 people in 2020, and we have grown to another 650 in 2021 so far, a Blue Origin spokesperson said in a statement. In fact, we've grown almost a factor of four over the past three years. In general, we will continue to fill out important leadership roles in manufacturing, quality, engine design, and vehicle design. It's a team we are building and we have great talent.
Blue Origin paid out a $10,000 bonus to full-time employees on June 30. The company said the bonus was intended as a thank you on Bezos' own successful launch, not as a retention bonus to attract employees to remain.
Blue Origin and SpaceX are locked in competition as NASA explores a return to the Moon.
Earlier this week, Blue Origin sued NASA after it awarded a $3.4 billion lunar lander contract to Musk's firm as part of its attempt to reach the Moon by 2024. The lawsuit prompted NASA to temporarily table its work with SpaceX.