A group of current and former employees at Blue Origin, the spaceflight company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, accused the company of exploiting a work environment “enriched with sexism” and of preferring “a speed vertiginous âto safety.
An open letter written by Alexandra Abrams, former employee communications manager at Blue Origin and 20 other current and former workers, says company culture “reflects the worst of the world we live in right now” and needs to change .
The letter, posted on the Lioness Whistleblower Forum, states: âGender gaps in the workforce are common in the space industry, but at Blue Origin they are also manifested as a particular mark of sexism. Many senior leaders are known to be consistently inappropriate with women. “
The letter goes on to claim that a senior official in the organization has been repeatedly reported for sexual harassment and that new employees have been warned to stay away from another executive, who allegedly groped a colleague. He adds that the workforce was “predominantly male” and “predominantly white”.
A spokesperson for Blue Origin said: âBlue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous opportunities for employees, including an anonymous 24/7 hotline, and will promptly investigate any new misconduct complaints. “
Continuing with the security allegations, the letter reads: “What are the blind spots of an organization whose stated mission is to enable a better future for humanity, but which is plagued by sexism?” Blue Origin’s flaws extend further, unfortunately.
The letter alleges that security concerns have been raised by women over Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, but have been “systematically shut down.” In July, Bezos and three teammates flew an 11-minute suborbital – reaching the edge of space – flight, landing in the Texas desert, with the Amazon billionaire describing his experience as “the best day ever. time “.
However, the letter alleges that Blue Origin prioritized speed over safety. âIn 2020, business leaders have shown growing impatience with New Shepard’s schedule of a few flights per year; their goal, regularly communicated to operations and maintenance staff, was to grow to over 40. Some of us felt that with the resources and personnel available, the leadership race to launch at such a lightning speed seriously compromised flight safety.
The Federal Aviation Administration, the US regulator, said Thursday it “takes all safety claims seriously and the agency is reviewing the information.”
A spokesperson for Blue Origin said Abrams “was fired for cause two years ago after repeated warnings over issues involving federal export control regulations.” Abrams told CBS News, which first reported the allegations, that she never received a warning about export control issues.
The Blue Origin statement added, âWe maintain our safety record and believe New Shepard is the safest spacecraft ever designed or built. “
Bezos’ flight came nine days after Richard Branson flew to the edge of space on Virgin Galactic’s successful maiden suborbital flight.
Bezos “started to get impatient and [SpaceXâs] Elon [Musk] and Branson were getting ahead, âAbrams told CBS News. âAnd then we started to feel this growing pressure and impatience that was sure to seep out of leadership. “
The letter says that a 2018 Blue Origin team “documented more than 1,000 reports of problems with the engines that power Blue Origin’s rockets that had never been resolved.”
Blue Origin announced this week that the 18th New Shepard Mission will take off on October 12.