Virgin Orbit aborts operations, axes 85% of its employees after failing to secure more funding

The satellite launch company Virgin Orbit is ceasing operations indefinitely and cutting almost its entire workforce after failing to attract more funding.

The California company will lay off 675 employees, or 85% of its workforce, it said in a regulatory filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday. The cuts, which will come from across the company, will be completed by Monday.

“Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to secure the funding to provide a clear path for this company. We have no choice but to implement immediate, dramatic and extremely painful changes,” Mr. Hart told employees Thursday evening in an all-hands call while audibly choking up with emotion, according to CNBC.

The company, founded in 2017 by Virgin billionaire Richard Branson, used LauncherOne rockets fired from a modified Virgin 747 airliner dubbed “Cosmic Girl,” to put small satellites in space for its customers.

Mr. Branson, who owns 75% of Virgin Orbit, had funneled $55 million into the company in recent months, according to technology news site TechCrunch. But neither he nor other investors were willing to extend more funding to the company.

Virgin Orbit had successfully completed four satellite launches out of California for a mix of government and private clientele.

But in January, an attempt from the United Kingdom failed when a system anomaly aborted the mission at the start of the second stage of the rocket launch.

A Virgin Orbit investigation into the incident found that a fuel filter had been dislodged, causing a fuel pump to operate less efficiently, starving the rocket of fuel. That, in turn, caused the engine to operate at an abnormally high temperature, leading to the final malfunction and the rocket’s fall back to Earth — more specifically, a safety corridor in the Atlantic Ocean.

Virgin Orbit had previously indicated that its next launch would be out of the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, but had not specified a date or the customer that launch would serve.

Instead, the company halted operations earlier this month.

Source: WT