Bezos hopes Amazon strategy will help Blue Origin top SpaceX

File photo: Jeff Bezos stands in front of a launch vehicle developed by his spaceflight company Blue Origin.

File photo: Jeff Bezos stands in front of a launch vehicle developed by his spaceflight company Blue Origin.
| Photo Credit: AFP

An Amazon veteran tapped by Jeff Bezos to lead Blue Origin aims to pull from the e-commerce giant’s speedy manufacturing playbook to give the space company’s rocket launch and moon lander business a badly needed boost against Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Top priorities for Dave Limp, who led Amazon’s lucrative devices unit, include accelerating development of Blue Origin’s long-delayed New Glenn rocket and production of its powerful BE-4 engine, according to employees who attended the new CEO’s company-wide meeting this month.

Drawing comparisons with Amazon’s customer-centric sales ethos, Mr. Limp stressed the importance of meeting schedule deadlines, said the employees, who asked not to be identified discussing the internal meeting. Mr. Limp also suggested placing greater focus on integrating software and artificial intelligence in manufacturing.

Blue Origin declined to make Mr. Limp available for an interview and didn’t respond to questions for comment. On his first day on the job on December 4, Limp said on a LinkedIn post that he was “excited to get started”.

Mr. Limp is seen as a trusted Bezos deputy capable of helping push Blue Origin through the final, complex stages of developing the heavy-lift New Glenn rocket, the company’s long-delayed key to earth orbit and main challenge to SpaceX’s dominant Falcon 9.

The clock is ticking as customers, such as Amazon’s satellite internet unit Kuiper, wait to fly on New Glenn, which is critical to Blue Origin generating meaningful revenue.

Though it has yet to reach orbit, Blue Origin’s industry footprint is vast. Limp will also oversee plans to build a moon lander for NASA, an orbital space station and a business centered on maneuverable servicing and refueling satellites.

He will also lead the restart of Blue Origin’s suborbital space tourism and research business as its only active rocket, the small, reusable New Shepard, returns to flight from a 15-month grounding.

In earth orbit, competitive pressure is mounting. SpaceX has launched multiple astronauts and nearly 100 missions to orbit this year with its Falcon 9. Musk is vowing to upend the global launch market with cheaper rides to space on SpaceX’s fully reusable Starship. NASA is pushing for speed in its Artemis moon program, where Blue Origin’s lunar lander concept will be a second ride for astronauts to the moon’s surface after SpaceX’s Starship.

“They need to get their act together, they need to deliver,” said George Sowers, a space industry consultant who worked with Blue Origin as an executive at United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

“They’ve had the luxury of not having to make a profit to survive, because Bezos has been funding them,” Sowers said. “But at some point that’s not a sustainable model.”

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