Virgin Orbit lays off 85% of staff

Virgin Orbit lay offs Image credit: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit said it will lay off 85% of its workforce after Richard Branson’s embattled rocket company failed to secure further funding.

It is the latest blow for Virgin Orbit, which earlier this month suspended operations and furloughed employees as it scrambled to find further funding in the wake of its unsuccessful launch from Spaceport Cornwall in January.

The layoffs will affect 675 Virgin Orbit employees, who were informed by Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart.

“Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to secure the funding to provide a clear path for this company,” said Hart in an audio recording acquired by CNBC, which first reported the news.

“We have no choice but to implement immediate, dramatic and extremely painful changes,” added Hart, who was heard “audibly choking up” during the call.

When UKTN contacted Virgin Orbit for comment it received two automated emails from employees stating they no longer worked for the company.

A representative referred UKTN to Virgin Orbit Holdings, Inc.’s 8-K form it filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. The form states:

“On March 30, 2023, the company announced a workforce reduction of approximately 675 employees, constituting approximately 85% of the company’s workforce in order to reduce expenses in light of the company’s inability to secure meaningful funding. Those impacted are located in all areas of the company.”

The form confirms the troubled space business will lay off 675 employees (85%) and result in aggregate charges of around $15m (£12.1m).

The layoffs follow Virgin Orbit’s attempt at the UK’s first orbital satellite launch in January from Spaceport Cornwall, only to end in failure due to a dislodged fuel filter part.

The rocket company had planned on another launch later this year, but that now remains up in the air.

Melissa Quinn, Head of Spaceport Cornwall: “We are saddened to hear the news from Virgin Orbit. We wish the very best for all of the team who have been affected.

“Spaceport Cornwall continues to operate with no direct impact to the team or project.”

The space port is located at Cornwall Airport Newquay and is made up of a consortium including Virgin Orbit, which also contributed £2.5m to its establishment. In the next five years, it planned to launch twice a year from the South West location.