Virgin Orbit Files For Bankruptcy In US

Sir Richard Branson’s satellite-launching company Virgin Orbit has filed for bankruptcy in the US, 15 months after it went public with a valuation of $3.7 billion (£3bn).

The Virgin Galactic spin-off listed on the Nasdaq in December 2021 through a merger with a blank-cheque company.

The firm was founded in 2017 to seek a share of the rapidly growing market for launching satellites into space, launching rockets from beneath modified Boeing 747 jets.

But it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday morning in the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware after failing to secure long-term funding.

Image credit: Virgin Orbit

Failed launch

The company had struggled to recover from a failed launch from Cornwall in January, which had been intended to be the first launch of a satellite from UK soil.

The launch was aborted after a rocket fuel filter became dislodged, causing one of the engines to overheat.

The failure caused Virgin Orbit’s share price to collapse.

Last month the firm paused operations to conserve cash and last week it said it would lay off 85 percent of it workforce.

Image credit: Virgin Orbit

‘Clarity’

Branson provided $11m to cover staff severance payments and on Tuesday Virgin Orbit said a sister company, Virgin Investments, would provide a further $31.6m to help it through the process of finding a buyer.

Virgin Orbit chief executive Dan Hart said the company had “taken great efforts” to secure funding but would now be focusing on finding a buyer “to provide clarity on the future of the company to its customers, vendors, and employees”.

He said he believed the firm’s “cutting-edge launch technology” would give it “wide appeal” for a new owner.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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