Virgin Orbit ceases operations and lays off 85% of its workforce

Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch subsidiary of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has announced that it will lay off 85% of its workforce and cease operations “for the foreseeable future”. The company, which aimed to provide a more affordable option for launching small satellites into orbit, was struggling to secure funding to stay afloat and compete with bigger players in the private space industry like SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Only 100 employees remain at Virgin Orbit, with 675 positions to be cut by April 3

According to a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Virgin Orbit will immediately end all operations and lay off 675 positions across all departments. The layoffs are expected to be completed by April 3, leaving just 100 employees remaining at the company. Virgin Orbit will pay approximately $15 million in severance and other costs related to winding down the business, paid for by a cash injection of $10.9 million from Branson’s investment arm, Virgin Investments (as as reported by the FinancialTimes).

“Unfortunately, we were unable to secure the necessary funding to chart a clear course for this venture. We have no choice but to implement immediate, dramatic and extremely painful changes,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart, according to audio of the meeting obtained by CNBC. Hart described the meeting as “probably the toughest all-hands we’ve ever had in my life”.

The announcement comes two weeks after Virgin Orbit suspended operations and laid off almost all of its workforce on March 15, while the company tried to secure additional investment. The satellite launch company revealed an operating loss of $50.5 million in its latest quarterly earnings report, and Branson’s Virgin Group has reportedly injected $60 million to keep the company afloat since November .

Virgin Orbit emerged as an offshoot of Branson space tourism company Virgin Galactic in 2017. Unlike rival companies like SpaceX that launch heavy rockets from the ground, Virgin Orbit launched its LauncherOne two-stage rocket from the air, raised to a height of 35,000 feet by a converted Boeing 747 nicknamed Cosmic Girl. It has flown six missions in total since 2020, with four successful launches and two failures.


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