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Blue Origin covers its safety issues with legal protection

by on13 December 2021

Will sue all whistleblowers

Jeff Bezos' sub-orbital sex toy company, Blue Origin might be sending unsafe rockets into space but has protected itself with legal protection against whistleblowers.

Blue Origin became the subject of a federal review this fall after a group of 21 current and former employees co-signed an essay that raised serious questions about the safety of the company's rockets -- including the rocket making headlines for flying Bezos and other celebrities to space.

But that review was hamstrung by a lack of legal protections for whistleblowers in the commercial spaceflight industry.

The Federal Aviation Administration investigators confirmed in a statement Friday that its Blue Origin review is now closed, because the "FAA investigated the safety allegations made against Blue Origin's human spaceflight program" and "found no specific safety issues."

But investigators were not able to speak with any of the engineers who signed the letter anonymously.

Investigators also were not able to go to Blue Origin and ask for documents or interviews with current employees or management, according to the FAA.

The situation highlights how commercial spaceflight companies like Blue Origin are operating in a regulatory bubble, insulated from much of the scrutiny other industries are put under. There are no federal whistle-blower statues that would protect employees in the commercial space industry if they aid FAA investigators, according to the agency.

The commercial space industry is in a legally designated "learning period" until at least October 2023 -- a "learning period" that has been extended several times, most recently by a 2015 law called the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act.

The idea is to allow the industry to mature and give companies a chance to self-regulate without overbearing government interference because companies can always been guaranteed to self regulate against their own interests.

The designation effectively bars federal regulators from implementing certain new rules or wielding the same oversight powers for commercial space companies as it does for aviation. That meant that investigators had to rely on current and former Blue Origin employees voluntarily coming forward to offer information.


Last modified on 13 December 2021
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