Virgin Orbit suspends operations amid funding crunch

Virgin Orbit LauncherOne, during Spaceport Cornwall mission Image credit: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit has suspended all of its operations and furloughed employees as it scrambles to find further funding in the wake of its unsuccessful launch from Spaceport Cornwall earlier this year.

A small percentage of its employees will remain at work while it seeks further investment. According to reports, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart told staff in a meeting on Wednesday that furloughs were necessary while it creates a new funding plan.

In a statement, Virgin Orbit said: “Virgin Orbit is initiating a company-wide operational pause, effective March 16, 2023, and anticipates providing an update on go-forward operations in the coming weeks.”

Founded by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, the California-based company uses a modified Boeing 747 to carry a rocket to high altitude, before it disconnects and launches into orbit. The company attempted the first satellite launch from British soil in January but it was unsuccessful due to a dislodged fuel filter part.

The company has been drawing on debt financing from Branson’s Virgin Group.

Virgin Orbit is now searching for additional capital, leaving a cloud of uncertainty over its planned second launch from Spaceport Cornwall later this year.

When contacted by UKTN, Spaceport Cornwall provided the following statement from Cllr Louis Gardner from Cornwall Council:

“It is clearly a difficult time for the Virgin Orbit team as they navigate the next stage of their company, and we will await further information from them as events unfold.”

“Our focus at Spaceport Cornwall is to continue to grow the space cluster in Cornwall, alongside progressing relationships with spaceflight operators.”