Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Blue Origin, the closely held spaceflight company founded by Jeff Bezos, is replacing its chief executive officer with veteran Amazon.com executive Dave Limp. Current CEO Bob Smith is stepping down and will be succeeded by Limp, the company said Monday. Smith will hand over the reins as of Dec. 4, according to two emails sent to employees. 

Limp has been one of Amazon’s highest profile leaders as head of its devices and services business, which builds the Alexa voice assistant, Echo smart speakers, Kindle e-readers, and Fire-branded streaming sticks and tablets, among other gadgets. He told Amazon employees last month he’d be retiring from the Seattle company before the end of the year.

The devices group had responsibility for the company’s burgeoning Internet-from-space satellite venture, called Project Kuiper. In recent years, the business has been under pressure as it struggled to turn Alexa’s widespread popularity into a profit engine for Amazon.

“Dave will join in December, and Bob will be here through January 2 to ensure a smooth transition,” the company said in a statement.

Six years after taking the top job, Blue Origin’s headcount has grown to more than 10,000 workers, as it opened a flurry of new offices and amassed a backlog the company has said is worth $10 billion.

But Smith, a former Honeywell International Inc. executive, also has faced criticism as Blue Origin has grappled with setbacks and development hurdles across its portfolio of space products.

The most notable stumble occurred in 2021 when Blue Origin lost out to Elon Musk’s SpaceX for a contract to build NASA’s human lunar landing system. Blue Origin protested the decision and also sued NASA in federal court and lost.

Ultimately, Blue Origin won a follow-on $3.4 billion contract, becoming a key piece of NASA’s efforts to carry astronauts to the moon’s surface.

Also in 2021, a group of former and active employees penned an open letter accusing Blue Origin of creating a toxic work environment and sexist work culture. Its suborbital New Shepard spacecraft has been grounded for a year since it experienced a failure of its engine mid-flight, while rival Virgin Galactic has pulled ahead with its third commercial flight. Blue Origin said the mishap was caused by thermo-structural failure of the engine nozzle and it’s making upgrades.

Blue Origin’s future orbital rocket, New Glenn, has experienced numerous delays for its inaugural launch.

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