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Friday, December 9, 2022

Rocket Lab, owned by Jeff Bezos, has been accused of having a toxic culture and safety issues

Former and present workers of Blue Origin, the rocket business founded by Jeff Bezos, the creator of Amazon and one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, claim the organization is riddled with misogyny, intolerant of employees who dare to disagree with their superiors, and careless when it comes to safety.

The allegations, which include allegations of sexual harassment by business officials, were made in an article written by 21 current and former workers and published on the website Lioness on Thursday. Only one former employee came forward to identify herself. Additionally, New Shepard, the spacecraft that sent Mr. Bezos and three other passengers to the edge of space in July, was mentioned in the article as a source of safety concerns.

As one engineer who contributed to this article said, “Blue Origin has been fortunate that nothing has occurred thus far,” according to the essay’s authors. “A large number of the writers of this article state that they would not travel on a Blue Origin vehicle.”

On Oct. 12, the next New Shepard trip is set to depart, and one of the aircraft’s four paying passengers confirmed that his travel arrangements had not altered.

As Glen de Vries, vice chair of life sciences and health care at French software company Dassault Systèmes, put it on Twitter: “I am confident in Blue Origin’s safety programmed, spacecraft, and track record, and certainly wouldn’t be flying with them if I wasn’t.” “I am confident in Blue Origin’s safety programmed, spacecraft, and track record,” he added. It has been a pleasure visiting the launch site and meeting individuals from every level of the organization. Everything that I’ve seen has been indicative of a fantastic team and culture.”

Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of Planet Labs, a satellite operator, was the other confirmed passenger, but he did not reply to a request for comment.

Alexandra Abrams, the essayist who made her remarks public, was once employed at Blue Origin as the company’s director of employee communications. In 2019, she was dismissed from her position at the business. She also made an appearance on “CBS Mornings” on Thursday morning.

In an interview with CBS, Ms. Abrams said that “you cannot build a culture of safety and a culture of fear at the same time.” “They are incompatible with one another.”

A Blue Origin spokesperson confirmed that Abrams had been dismissed for cause in 2019 after multiple warnings for problems with federal export control rules, according to a statement from the company. Ms. Abrams said that she had never been given any cautions, either verbally or in writing.

A spokesperson for Blue Origin said that the company has “zero tolerance” for any kind of discrimination or harassment. “We offer many channels for workers, including a 24/7 anonymous hotline, and we will examine any new allegations of wrongdoing as soon as they are received. The safety record of New Shepard is unquestionable, and we think it is the safest space spacecraft ever conceived or constructed.”

Blue Origin was established by Mr. Bezos in the year 2000. With Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, the firm is part of a wave of companies that are working to reduce the cost of rocket launches while also opening up space to private industry and space tourists.

In July, it achieved its most significant accomplishment to date: the successful maiden flight of the New Shepard vehicle with humans onboard. That spacecraft is too tiny to enter orbit around the Earth; instead, it soars more than 60 miles above the surface of the planet, where it experiences a brief period of weightlessness, before crashing down to the surface of the planet, slowed by parachutes. In addition to the July trip, the company has completed 16 successful launches with no passengers on board thus far.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees rocket launches to protect the public’s safety, issued a statement stating that it was examining the facts included in the essay, as it does with all safety-related claims.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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