Blue Origin Loses Prime Expertise to Opponents Whereas Moon Lander Struggle Continues

Jeff Bezos, owner of Blue Origin, introduces a new lunar landing module called Blue Moon during an event at the Washington Convention Center, May 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
While Blue Origin’s fight to win NASA’s moon lander contract continues, the Jeff Bezos-led space company is losing its top talent to competitors large and small.
On Tuesday, Texas startup Firefly Aerospace announced that it has hired Blue Origin engineer Lauren Lyon as the company’s chief operating officer.
Lyon was a lead systems engineer on Blue Origin’s Advanced Concepts team, helping the company to develop new product ideas and use cases and bring them into reality. Before joining Blue Origin, Lyon was an engineer at SpaceX, holding leadership roles on the Dragon, Falcon 9, and Starlink programs. She was a regular presence on SpaceX’s webcasts, including the Demo-2 commercial crew test flight in May 2020.
Firefly is in the early stage developing a small rocket called Alpha. The company is exploring a business model of selling Alpha’s engines to other customers. As COO, Lyons will “lead the efforts in scaling the company’s infrastructure, production and operations as Firefly moves into commercial production,” Firefly said in a social media post.
Lyon’s departure came just a day after another top Blue Origin engineer jumped ship. Nitin Arora, a mission architecture and integration lead on Blue Origin’s Human Landing System (HLS) National team, announced on his LinkedIn page Monday that he’d left the company to join SpaceX.
Arora joined Blue Origin in 2018 from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to work on the company’s “Blue Moon” lunar lander. The Blue Moon team was rebranded as HLS National team after Blue Origin applied for NASA’s HLS contract.
Blue Origin hasn’t responded to an Observer inquiry about Lyon and Arora’s departure. The company is currently hiring for Lyon’s replacement. In a job posting looking for an “Advanced Concepts Systems Engineer-Advanced Development Programs,” Blue Origin describes the group as “a small, passionate, and accomplished team of experts.”

Watch astronaut’s tour of the area station’s latest module

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet has given a tour of the latest module to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS).
Russia’s Nauka Multipurpose Logistics Module (MLM) hit the headlines in July when its thrusters unexpectedly fired up shortly after docking, temporarily knocking the space station out of alignment.
The worrying situation was quickly brought under control, and this week Pesquet showed space fans inside the module for the first time.

Je vous fais visiter notre tout nouveau module scientifique à bord de la Station : MLM !.Join me on a tour of the @Space_Station's newest (and possibly most dramatic 😉) module – MLM. @iss_research @roscosmos #MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/keun7Dk2pw
— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) August 17, 2021
Nauka will function as a science facility, docking port, and spacewalk airlock, mainly for the Russian cosmonauts aboard the ISS. It replaced the outdated Pirs module that arrived at the station shortly after astronauts started living and working aboard the orbiting outpost two decades ago.
Pesquet, who’s been on board the ISS since April 2021, begins the tour by floating through several sections of the main part of the space station to reach the entrance to Nauka.
Upon entering, the French astronauts notes the smoke-like odor, which rather than being something to worry about is actually a characteristic of newly arrived modules, apparently the result of exposure to the sun’s heat.
Pesquet is also quick to point out the location of Nauka’s toilet. “It will be our third toilet,” he says, adding, “It might sound random, but this is something you have to think about when you’re in space, and with longer [missions] and bigger crews on board the space station, we have to come up with solutions, and this is part of it.”
The astronaut shows us the module’s numerous science racks that will be used for experiments, adding that the new facility will also house the control panel for operating the recently arrived European Robotic Arm on the outside of the ISS.
Nauka also includes an astronaut cabin that includes “all modern conveniences,” Pesquet says, though he was unable to show us inside as it’s still full of equipment that needs to be sorted.
Finally, at the far end of the module we get to see Nauka’s docking ring for incoming spacecraft, as well as a small hatch for sending science experiments outside of the ISS, and a “rather big” window for views of Earth 250 miles below. No doubt Pesquet will soon be returning to Nauka with his camera to add to his growing collection of stunning Earth shots.

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