Richard Branson's firm Virgin Orbit falls short against Elon Musk’s SpaceX, files for bankruptcy

Founded as a spin-off from Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit was founded by Richard Branson in 2017.

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Founded as a spin-off from Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit was founded by Richard Branson in 2017.

Richard Branson's rocket firm, Virgin Orbit, has filed for bankruptcy and will lay off 85 percent of its workforce. As reported by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the spinoff of Branson's Virgin Galactic, a low Earth orbit launch firm, has filed for bankruptcy (SEC).

"On April 4, 2023, Virgin Orbit and its domestic subsidiaries commenced voluntary proceedings under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code in the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware," said the company in its filing.

Virgin Orbit has decided to try to get out of bankruptcy by selling the business or its assets.  Due to a lack of capital, Virgin Orbit had to lay off 85% of its workers, or around 675 people.

Its CEO Dan Hart said last week that the company will be closing its doors "for the foreseeable future."

"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 and extremely painful changes," Hart told the employees.

Branson founded Virgin Orbit in 2017 after spinning off from its sister company, Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Orbit has been developing an air-launched rocket, dubbed LauncherOne, for launching small satellites to orbit.

In January, its rocket carrying satellites into space suffered an "anomaly", abruptly ending the first foray into orbital launch from the UK territory.

An investigation into that failed mission "is nearly complete and our next production rocket with the needed modification incorporated is in final stages of integration and test", a Virgin Orbit spokesperson said in a March statement.

About Virgin Orbit
Launch services for small satellites were offered by Virgin Orbit, a subsidiary of the Virgin Group. Private companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin are the company's main competitors.

After a SPAC merger with NextGen Acquisition Corp on December 30, 2021, Virgin Orbit began trading on the NASDAQ under the ticker code "VORB." Virgin Orbit's stock was worth $3.7 billion at the time of the SPAC transaction.

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From 2020 to 2023, LauncherOne attempted six flights, with a success rate of four flights. Following a second setback in January 2023 and the inability to raise capital, the firm filed for bankruptcy on March 30, 2023, lay off 675 employees (equal to almost 85% of the workforce), and ceased operations the same day.

(With IANS inputs) 

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