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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

    Virgin Orbit to cease operations, lay off 85 percent staff after failure to secure funding

    Image Credits: Virgin Orbit

    Virgin Orbit (VORB), the satellite launch subsidiary of the Virgin Group, is going out of orbit and will be laying off 85 per of its staff. The Richard Branson led company had furloughed almost all of its employees, earlier in March and on Thursday, CEO Dan Hart said that the company was ceasing operations “for the foreseeable future”. after it was unable to secure funding. Following the news, the company’s shares crashed by 38 percent in after-hours trading, in New York.

    In a regulatory filing, Virgin Orbit said that about 675 employees would be affected across all areas. Total costs are expected to reach over $15 million. Sir Richard Branson’s investment firm called Virgin Investments has put in $10.9 million into Virgin Orbit that would be used “to fund severance and other costs” that would arise due to the reduction in the workforce.


    Founded in 2017, Virgin Orbit went public three years later through “a blank cheque deal.” It was valued at $3.2 billion, in 2021 during its initial public offering.

    In its last quarterly earnings report, Virgin Orbit disclosed that the company suffered an operating loss of $50.5 million. Richard Branson’s Virgin Group had reportedly put in $60 million, since November into the satellite launch company,

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    Unlike other space companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, who launch their heavy rockets from the ground, Virgin Orbit launches its two-stage rocket LauncherOne from midair. It is carried by a converted Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl to a height of 35,000 feet. The satellite launch company has undertaken a total of six missions from 2020. It saw four successful launches and two failed launches.

    In January 2023, Virgin Orbit launched its first rocket, on British soil. The mission in Cornwall failed because of a dislodged rocket fuel filter. Although the company’s CEO Dan Hart tried to secure funding, his financial mission failed as well and the company will complete its layoffs by April 3. About 100 employees will remain at Virgin Orbit.

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