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Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith is retiring at the end of the year and his replacement is coming from Jeff Bezos' other company.
Dave Limp, an Amazon veteran who had planned to step down from his role as head of the company's consumer devices division, is taking over the CEO spot. Limp, who was Amazon's senior vice president of devices and services for more than 13 years, had overseen the development and rollout of numerous products, including Echo and Alexa, as well as the company's line of Fire tablets.
Limp had also been overseeing Amazon’s Kuiper satellite broadband project, so he’s not without space industry experience.
The executive shuffling was first reported by CNBC, which viewed internal memos between Smith and Bezos.
Blue Origin is in the midst of juggling a number of space projects, from launch vehicle development to rocket engines and even lunar landers. The space company is also working on a $34.7 million contract awarded by NASA to continue advancing its solution to process solar cells from lunar regolith. Blue Origin has said this process “would bootstrap unlimited electricity and power transmission cables anywhere on the surface of the Moon.”
Smith broke the news to Blue Origin employees in an email on Monday.
“We’ve rapidly scaled this company from its prototyping and research roots to a large, prominent space business,” he wrote in that email. “We have the right strategy, a supremely talented team, a robust customer base, and some of the most technically ambitious and exciting projects in the entire industry.”
Under Smith's leadership, Blue Origin has seen staggering growth. He scaled Blue Origin from a company of less than 1,000 to a workforce that’s over 12,000, and led the development of infrastructure across Florida, Alabama, California and Colorado. But he's leaving at a time when critical projects remain unfinished: manufacturing of Blue Origin's BE-4 rocket engines, which the company aims to scale for customer United Launch Alliance; the re-certification of New Shepard, which was grounded last year due to an in-flight anomaly; the inaugural launch of the next-gen New Glenn rocket; and a multi-billion-dollar NASA contract for a lunar lander called Blue Moon.
Smith's tenure was also marred by allegations of a culture of sexism among senior executives and claims that the company did not take safety seriously enough. These claims were alleged by 21 current and former Blue employees, and were described at length in an open letter penned in 2021.