Blue Origin employees say they wouldn't feel safe riding the company's rockets, and it's 'lucky' nothing has happened

Insider Healthcare: Get the latest news and analysis in healthcare Loading Click to sign up for marketing emails from Insider and other partners. You also agree to our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy
A group of Blue Origin employees, current and ex-employees, wrote a scorching open letter stating that they wouldn't fly on the rocket company's because they don’t believe it's safe enough.

Jeff Bezos founded the company in 2000. In July, the New Shepard rocket launched to the edge. Blue Origin has started ticket sales since that flight. Four customers are set to launch on October 12. The new letter reveals that Blue Origin's leadership ignored safety concerns of employees in favor "making progress for Jeff" as well as accelerating New Shepard’s launch schedule.

Alexandra Abrams is the only person named on the letter. She used to be in charge of Blue Origin's employee communications. The essay was published on Lioness' website on Thursday. She claims that it was co-written by 20 Blue Origin employees. CBS News spoke with five of the co-authors, but none of them were identified. Blue Origin was also accused of having a culture that sexism and harassment is commonplace.

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos wore aviation glasses that belonged Amelia Earhart. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

New Shepard flew successfully 15 times, once without passengers and once with passengers. Bezos was onboard the flight. A rocket's emergency system can be used to evacuate the passengers from a failing rocket.

The letter stated that Blue Origin had been fortunate to have nothing happen so far, and that it was grateful for the support of engineers who signed up to the essay. Many of the essay's writers claim they wouldn't fly on a Blue Origin car.

CBS News interviewed two former Blue Origin employees who said they wouldn't feel at ease riding on a Blue Origin spacecraft.

Blue Origin stated in a statement that Abrams was "dismissed for cause" two years ago, after being warned repeatedly about issues related to federal export control regulations. Abrams denied receiving such warnings.

CNBC reported that Blue Origin has lost 17 of its top engineers and leaders this summer. Many of these departures occurred in the week following Bezos's launch into spaceflight. Although the reasons are not clear, Glassdoor ratings indicate that only 19% of Blue Origin employees like Bob Smith, its CEO. This compares to the 92% approval rating for SpaceX founder Elon Musk, and 77% for Tory Bruno of United Launch Alliance.

Blue Origin also stated that it stands by its safety record and believes that New Shepard space vehicle is the most safest ever designed or constructed.

The open letter stated that safety was the "drive force" behind publishing it for many co-authors. The open letter also stated that in 2018, a new manager took over a team and discovered that there had been "more than 1000 problem reports" about the rocket engines. The letter stated that none of these reports had been addressed.

The letter also stated that Blue Origin has denied numerous requests for "additional engineers, staff or spending" while simultaneously adding more responsibilities and responsibilities to smaller teams that cannot handle them.

The letter stated that employees are often advised to "be careful with Jeff’s money", to "not ask for more" and to be grateful.

Passenger on commercial rockets fly at their own risk

Blue Origin's Launch Site One, Texas, January 14, 2021. The New Shepard crew capsule parachutes for a landing at Blue Origin. Blue Origin

Spaceflight is always dangerous. According to an analysis published earlier in the year, only 1% of US spaceflights resulted from a fatal accident.

"That's quite high. "It's approximately 10,000 times more hazardous than flying on a commercial aircraft," George Nield, co-author of the report, told Insider. Nield was previously the Federal Aviation Administration's Associate Administrator and headed its Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

He said, "To learn how to do it safer, more reliable, and more economically, many people believe that we must continue to gain experience by flying more of these flights."

No federal agency currently regulates safety for passengers on private commercial spaceflights. The Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for ensuring that rocket launches are safe and do not pose a danger to other aircraft.

Insider was emailed a statement by the FAA stating that they were "reviewing" this open letter.

The statement stated that the FAA "takes every safety allegation seriously and is currently reviewing the information."