The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it’s looking into safety concerns made by a group of current and former Blue Origin employees in an explosive article. The group of 21 present and past employees, most of whom are nameless, alleged in an essay posted on the website Lioness on September 30 that an effort by business leaders to raise the flight rate of the New Shepard suborbital vehicle “was gravely compromising flight safety.”
“‘Blue Origin has been fortunate that nothing has transpired thus far,’ according to one engineer who has agreed on to this essay,” it says. “Many of the authors of this essay have stated that they would not fly in a Blue Origin vehicle.” “Every safety allegation is taken seriously by the FAA, and the agency is evaluating the evidence,” an FAA spokeswoman told SpaceNews. The government did not specify the scope of the assessment or probe or whether it was aware of any past New Shepard flight safety issues.
The essay provided few details, save from concerns that the business was not allocating sufficient resources to groups working on different vehicle systems. It was stated that in 2019, the team working on an unnamed New Shepard component “contained only a few engineers operating long hours” and whose work “went much beyond what would be feasible for a team twice the size.”
The essay also cautioned that business leaders would put pressure on the vehicle’s flight rates to improve, with a goal of over 40 launches each year. “With the resources and personnel available, several of us believed that leadership’s rush to launch at a rather breakneck speed was severely jeopardizing flight safety,” they wrote.
In 2019, New Shepard only flew three times and would only fly once in 2020. So far in 2021, Blue Origin has completed four New Shepard missions, employing two separate spacecraft, one for the payload-only flights and the other for flying humans. Blue Origin’s first and only crewed flight took place on July 20.
The essay was published less than 2 weeks before another New Shepard crewed mission, which is set for October 12 from the company’s launch location in West Texas. Chris Boshuizen, who serves as the co-founder of the Planet, as well as Glen de Vries, who is the vice-chair n charge of the life sciences and health care at the Dassault Systèmes, will be aboard the voyage, according to Blue Origin. The identities of the other two individuals have not been revealed by the company.
The essay accuses a poisonous work atmosphere at the corporation, particularly for women, and raises safety issues as part of it. The piece describes “a special form of sexism” at Blue Origin, stating that “multiple senior leaders have indeed been known to be regularly inappropriate with women.” Employees were also subjected to a “suppression of dissent,” according to the essay. Limiting questions at firm town halls, keeping records of employees who are “troublemakers or agitators,” and even firing critics were all examples of this. The organization claims that these activities have an impact on safety.