© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A replica of the astronaut capsule is displayed at the Blue Origin site, on the day the Blue Origin’s rocket New Shepard blasts off on billionaire Jeff Bezos’s company’s fourth suborbital tourism flight with a six-person crew near Van Horn, Te
By Joey Roulette
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Blue Origin’s senior vice president of operations is leaving “for personal reasons,” according to an internal email seen by Reuters, the third executive departure to be disclosed in less than a month at Jeff Bezos’ space company as it aims to sharpen its competitive footing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith told employees in an email on Friday that Mike Eilola, the company’s senior vice president of operations since 2021, “is leaving the company for personal reasons” on Nov. 3 and will have his unit split into two new organizations.
Eilola’s departure follows plans announced last month by Bezos to replace Smith, who has been Blue Origin’s CEO since 2017, with longtime Amazon (NASDAQ:) executive Dave Limp by the end of the year. And Sherwood, the head of what had been the company’s research and development unit, will depart next month, Reuters has reported.
Eilola, a former Honeywell (NASDAQ:) Aerospace executive, oversaw Blue Origin’s supply chain, manufacturing apparatus and the company’s vast network of facilities across the United States, as the company reaches the late stages of developing its next-generation New Glenn rocket.
“Effective immediately,” Smith’s email said, the operations unit will split into a new manufacturing and supply chain operations organization and a facilities, maintenance and security team.
Blue Origin did not respond to a request for comment.
Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the vision of having millions of people living and working in space. The Amazon founder has sought to make the company into a formidable rocket launch and human spaceflight business that could rival SpaceX. Bezos hired Smith, also a former Honeywell Aerospace executive, in 2017 to lead that charge.
Blue Origin this year won a $3.4 billion NASA contract to send humans to the moon’s surface in the next decade, and more broadly has had success with a suborbital human space tourism business centered on its reusable New Shepard rocket. It also plans to build an Earth-orbiting space station.
But New Shepard has been grounded for more than a year after a 2022 uncrewed mishap. And development of Blue Origin’s reusable New Glenn rocket has been delayed for years, setting back the company’s long-awaited debut in Earth’s orbit and its bid to challenge SpaceX’s growing dominance in the global space sector.
In the past several months, Blue Origin’s corporate structure has changed substantially as its leadership gets a revamp.
The company this month unveiled a new In-Space Systems unit and brought its development of a new maneuverable spacecraft, Blue Ring, out of the shadows, aiming to capture a slice of a growing market for refueling and deploying spacecraft while in orbit. Blue Origin this year also spun its moon lander program into a new independent business unit.
In replacing Smith with Limp, Bezos told employees in an email last month that “I know we’ll remain focused on our customer commitments, production schedules and executing with speed and operational excellence.”