Bob Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of Blue Origin, has announced his resignation from the aerospace company, effective December 4th. Smith’s departure will mark the end of his six-year tenure at the helm of the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. Smith will continue to assist with the transition to his successor until early January.
In an email sent to Blue Origin employees on September 25th, Smith expressed his pride in the company’s achievements during his tenure. “We’ve rapidly scaled this company from its prototyping and research roots to a large, prominent space business,” Smith wrote. “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 experienced substantial growth, increasing its workforce from fewer than 1,000 employees to over 10,000 today. Notable accomplishments during his tenure include the development and commercial launch of the New Shepard suborbital vehicle, ongoing work on the New Glenn orbital launch vehicle, and the BE-4 engine, which powers both New Glenn and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket. In addition, the company secured a significant NASA contract in May to develop the Blue Moon lunar lander for the Artemis lunar exploration campaign.
Competing with SpaceX
Despite these achievements, Blue Origin has faced competition from SpaceX and challenges related to delays in the New Glenn program. SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, has conducted 68 orbital launches this year, further intensifying the competitive landscape in the space industry.
Furthermore, New Shepard, the suborbital vehicle, has been grounded since a September 2022 engine failure, delaying plans to carry passengers to the edge of space. Smith mentioned in June that the company was close to resuming flights but has not done so as of this announcement.
Growth of Blue Origin
Smith acknowledged the company’s financial growth, stating, “When I joined Blue, we had very, very little revenue. Now we have hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue as well as billions of dollars in orders, so we’re in a very good position.”
Despite these successes, recent reports of layoffs and a slower hiring pace indicated potential challenges for the company. These layoffs primarily affected recruiters and were attributed to a reduced hiring pace, not a reduction in the overall workforce.
Jeff Bezos Expresses Confidence
Smith revealed that his departure had been discussed with Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos for several months. In a separate email, Bezos praised Smith for his leadership, citing the company’s growth to “several billion dollars in sales orders” and a substantial backlog for its vehicles and engines.
The successor to Bob Smith at Blue Origin will be Dave Limp, a seasoned Amazon executive who had been overseeing the development of Project Kuiper, Amazon’s broadband internet constellation, along with consumer devices like Kindle and Echo. Bezos expressed confidence in Limp, stating, “Dave is a proven innovator with a customer-first mindset and extensive experience leading and scaling large, complex organizations. Dave has an outstanding sense of urgency, brings energy to everything, and helps teams move very fast.”