"Blue Origin has been lucky that nothing has happened so far."
A small cohort of current and former employees of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos's spaceflight company, recently penned an article questioning the company's commitment to safety.
We wrote yesterday about the employees' claims that Blue Origin harbors a shockingly sexist work culture. Another alarming takeaway from the letter, though, comes from a completely different direction, claiming that the company also has a poor safety culture around its rockets. The problems are so bad that the authors say they wouldn't feel safe riding in a Blue Origin rocket, given the 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."
Notably, the authors don't list any single safety issue with Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket. Instead, they describe a work culture in which overstretched teams had more and more work piled onto them without reasonable increases in personnel or budget.
That culture, coupled with a lack of overarching safety regulations for the nascent commercial spaceflight industry, they argue, forced the staff to prioritize speed over safety, increasing the chances that safety issues flew under the radar.
"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."
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