Blue Origin CEO Smith is stepping down

Smith and New Shepard crew

KAHULUI, Hawaii – Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith will resign from the company in December and will be replaced by Dave Limp, the Amazon executive who has been overseeing development of the Project Kuiper constellation.

In an email to employees dated Sept. 25, Smith announced he would step down as CEO effective Dec. 4 after six years on the job. He said he will remain with the company until early January to support the transition to his successor.

Smith said in the email that he will leave Blue Origin “with pride and satisfaction” with the company’s accomplishments since he joined. “We have rapidly scaled this company from its roots in prototyping and research into a large, prominent aerospace company,” he wrote. “We have the right strategy, an extremely talented team, a strong client base, and some of the most ambitious and technically exciting projects in the entire industry.”

Blue Origin has grown from fewer than 1,000 employees when Smith took over as CEO to more than 10,000 employees today. During his tenure, the company completed development and began commercial flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, while continuing development of the New Glenn orbital launch vehicle and the BE-4 engine that powers the New Glenn and United Launch Alliance Vulcan rockets. The company also won a NASA award in May to develop a manned lunar lander, Blue Moon, for the Artemis lunar exploration campaign.

However, the company has also faced a perception that it is falling behind SpaceX, which has conducted 68 orbital launches so far this year using Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, as well as an unsuccessful test flight of the next-generation Starship vehicle. New Glenn is years behind schedule, although a company executive said on World Satellite Business Week earlier this month that Blue Origin was planning a “multiple” launch of the vehicle in 2024.

Meanwhile, the New Shepard plane has been grounded since an engine failure during a flight in September 2022 that was carrying payloads but no people. Smith said at a conference in June that the company was “a few weeks” away from resuming flights, but New Shepard has not flown since then.

“When I joined Blue, our revenue was very, very low,” Smith said at the June conference. “We now have hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue as well as billions of dollars in orders, so we are in a very good position.”

However, there have been recent signs that Blue Origin’s growth has been slowing. In early September, several employees reported on social media that they had been laid off from their jobs. All were recruiters, and an industry source familiar with the layoffs said they were related to a slower pace of hiring, not a reduction in the overall workforce.

“In his six years, Bob has led Blue Origin’s transformation from an R&D-focused company to a multi-faceted space company with close to $10 billion in customer orders and more than 10,000 employees,” a company spokesperson told SpaceNews.

Smith said in his email that he had been discussing his scheduled departure with company founder Jeff Bezos for months, and that Bezos would separately announce his successor. Bezos, in an email shortly after Smith, praised the departing CEO.

“Under Bob’s leadership, Blue has grown to multi-billion dollar sales orders, with a significant backlog of our vehicles and engines,” Bezos wrote.

Bezos announced that Dave Lemp will take over as CEO of Blue Origin. Limb announced in August that he intended to step down as senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon, which Bezos also founded. Limp’s portfolio at Amazon included Project Kuiper, Amazon’s broadband internet constellation in development, as well as consumer devices like the Kindle and Echo.

“I have worked closely with Dave for many years. He is the right leader at the right time for Blue,” Bezos wrote. “Dave is a proven innovator with a customer-first mentality and extensive experience leading and scaling large, complex organizations. Dave has a great sense of urgency, brings energy to everything, and helps teams move very quickly.

“He has extensive experience in the high-tech industry and growing highly complex organizations,” a Blue Origin spokesperson said of Lemp in a statement.

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