/COO of Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin is leaving to pursue other opportunities

COO of Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin is leaving to pursue other opportunities

The facade of Blue Origin’s new rocket engine factory in Huntsville, Alabama.
CNBC | Michael Sheetz

The chief operating officer of Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin is leaving, the company confirmed to CNBC on Wednesday.

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith wrote in an e-mail to the company that COO Terry Benedict’s last day will be Friday, Dec. 3, people familiar with the matter told CNBC. While those people said Smith did not elaborate in the e-mail as to why Benedict is leaving, Blue Origin confirmed his departure to CNBC.

“We can confirm that Terry Benedict has decided to pursue opportunities outside of Blue Origin and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” the company said in a statement to CNBC.

Benedict was named as COO in July 2018, after a more than four decade career for the U.S. Navy. Before Blue Origin, he most recently served from May 2010 to May 2018 as the director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs – which focuses on sea-based deterrent systems such as missiles.

His departure comes with the company behind schedule on several pieces of its ambitious portfolio of rockets and engines. Blue Origin is seeking to compete against the likes of Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the sectors of sub-orbital space tourism and heavy lift rockets, respectively. Bezos’ company is also leading a consortium with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper to win further NASA contracts to build an astronaut lunar lander, competing against SpaceX and Leidos’ subsidiary Dynetics.

Four years ago Blue Origin’s leadership expected its space tourism rocket New Shepard to launch people by the end of 2017. But the company has not put a crew in the rocket’s capsule as of its latest flight in October – and plans to conduct at least three more uncrewed test flights before doing so.

The company also missed out in the latest round Pentagon launch contracts, with SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) splitting the awards made in August. Blue Origin had bid its New Glenn rocket, which is in development. Originally scheduled to launch in 2020, the company now expects New Glenn’s inaugural launch no earlier than late 2021.

Blue Origin’s flagship BE-4 engine, which powers both New Glenn and ULA’s Vulcan rocket, has seen delays in development. An issue with the BE-4 turbopumps was identified earlier this year, but ULA CEO Tory Bruno three months later said that the problem was “sorted out.”

Blue Origin tests one of the BE-4 rocket engines the company is developing to launch its New Glenn rocket.
Blue Origin | gif by @thesheetztweetz

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