Bezos taps Amazon vet to accelerate space company Blue Origin

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An Amazon veteran tapped by Jeff Bezos to lead Blue Origin is looking to pull from the e-commerce giant’s fast-paced manufacturing playbook to fuel the company’s rocket launch and moon lander business a necessary advance against Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Top priorities for Dave Limp, who heads Amazon’s utility devices unit, include accelerating the development of Blue Origin’s long-delayed New Glenn rocket and building the powerful BE-4 machine, according to two employees who attended a company-wide meeting with the new CEO this month. .

Drawing comparisons to Amazon’s customer-centric sales, Limp stressed the importance of meeting schedule deadlines, said the employees, who asked not to be identified discussing the internal meeting. Limp also suggested putting more focus on integrating software and artificial intelligence in manufacturing.

Blue Origin declined to make Limp available for an interview and did not respond to requests for comment. On his first day on the job on Dec. 4, Limp said in a LinkedIn post that he was “excited to get started.”

Limp is seen as a trusted representative of Bezos who can help push Blue Origin through the final, complex stages of development of the heavy-lift New Glenn rocket, the company’s long-delayed key to Earth orbit. and main challenger to SpaceX’s dominant Falcon 9.

The clock is ticking as customers, such as Amazon’s Kuiper satellite internet unit, wait to fly New Glenn, which is essential for Blue Origin to generate meaningful revenue.

Limp takes notices from his boss.

“Blue Origin needs to go faster, and it’s one of the reasons I left my role as CEO of Amazon a few years ago,” Bezos said last week to podcaster Lex Fridman.

Bezos has reshuffled Blue Origin’s senior leaders and reorganized its business units to shake it out of a growth gridlock that has existed since the last time he installed a new CEO in 2017.

MANY FOOTPRINTS

Although it has yet to reach orbit, Blue Origin’s industrial footprint is huge. Limp will also oversee plans to build a moon lander for NASA, an orbital space station and a business focused on servicing and refueling satellites.

He will also lead the restart of Blue Origin’s suborbital space tourism and research business as the only active rocket, the small, reusable New Shepard, returns to flight from a 15-month grounding.

Limp, who has also worked at Apple for nearly a decade, brings a fresh face where the former Blue Origin CEO’s popularity has been lost among staff, several current and former employees said.

Limp’s predecessor, Bob Smith, oversaw the start of the New Shepard launch campaign, sending Bezos himself into space in 2021. Smith also led Blue Origin through a legal battle to win the multibillion-dollar moon lander contract from NASA.

But mounting delays at New Glenn and the BE-4 engine largely prompted a change in leadership, several employees said.

Smith could not be reached for comment.

In Earth’s orbit, competitive pressure is mounting. SpaceX has launched many astronauts and nearly 100 missions to orbit this year with its Falcon 9. Musk has promised to increase the global launch market with cheaper rides into space with SpaceX’s fully reusable Starship.

And NASA is pushing the pace of its Artemis moon program, where Blue Origin’s lunar lander concept will be the second trip by astronauts to the moon’s surface after SpaceX’s Starship.

“They need to get their act together, they need to deliver,” said George Sowers, a space industry consultant who works with Blue Origin as an executive at United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture. of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

“They have the luxury of not having to earn a living, because Bezos is funding them,” Sowers said. “But at some point that’s not a sustainable model.”

Blue Origin sells BE-4 engines to ULA, a rival that has long dominated the market for launching Pentagon satellites into space. ULA is counting on the timely delivery of the BE-4 for the next-generation Vulcan rocket.

Blue Origin may be interested in buying ULA. It has expressed interest in such a deal in the past, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that Blue Origin, private equity firm Cerberus and Textron have shown interest in an acquisition.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette, editing by Ben Klayman and Nick Zieminski)

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