Tech Moves

After milestone flight, Blue Origin SVP Stephen Bennett will be part of Kepler Communications as COO

New Shepard and team
Blue Origin’s team gathers in front of a New Shepard booster after July’s first crewed suborbital spaceflight. (Blue Origin Photo)

The changing of the guard is continuing at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture with the departure of Stephen Bennett, a senior vice president who led the team behind the company’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship.

Bennett will become Toronto-based Kepler Communications’ chief operating officer on Sept. 20, Kepler said in a news release.

Blue Origin’s vice president of communications, Linda Mills, told GeekWire in an email that Bennett’s deputy, Phil Joyce, “was promoted and has taken on leadership of the New Shepard team with a seamless transition plan.”

Kepler is rolling out Aether, a connectivity service for space assets in low Earth orbit, or LEO. The Aether system is due to go through flight validation early next year.

“The opportunity to join Kepler as this point in their journey speaks to me on multiple levels,” Bennett said in the news release. “The goal of delivering a LEO network that will provide real-time connectivity to other orbital missions is a bold one, but one that this team has demonstrated they are on track to achieve.”

Stephen Bennett
Stephen Bennett (Photo via LinkedIn)

Kepler Communications, which graduated from the Techstars Seattle startup incubator in 2016, has already put 15 satellites into orbit for a different type of network that’s designed to facilitate data flow for smart devices on Earth. The company has been working with Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta to demonstrate high-speed connectivity under Arctic conditions.

Before joining Blue Origin in 2020, Bennett served in executive positions at a variety of aerospace companies, including L3Harris, BAE Systems and Raytheon. Joyce. for his part, has had extensive aerospace experience at Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK and Orbital Sciences Corp.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard program marked a milestone in July with its first crewed suborbital spaceflight, which sent Bezos and three crewmates beyond the 100-kilometer space boundary and back. Afterward, Bezos said Blue Origin had stacked up nearly $100 million in private sales for future New Shepard flights.

The shift in operations for the New Shepard program, and the allure of new challenges elsewhere, aren’t the only factors behind Blue Origin’s recent string of departures. Other transitions have been linked to Blue Origin’s failure to win a multibillion-dollar lunar lander contract from NASA, as well as production delays for the company’s BE-4 rocket engine and orbital-class New Glenn rocket.

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