Virgin Orbit: Branson’s rocket dream ends after failed mission

  • By Peter Hoskins
  • Business reporter

image source, Ministry of Defence

Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company Virgin Orbit has shut down, just months after a major mission failure.

The firm’s converted jets and property leases have been sold for $36m (£29m), just a fraction of the $3.7bn the company was valued at in 2021.

In March, Virgin Orbit said it would make most of its workforce redundant after failing to secure new investment.

The California-based firm filed for bankruptcy protection in the US early last month.

It came just weeks after the company suspended operations in an apparent attempt to shore up its finances.

Earlier this year, a Virgin Orbit rocket failed to complete the first ever satellite launch from British soil.

Virgin Orbit’s headquarters, rocket factory and equipment were bought by rival startup Rocket Lab for $16.1 million.

The converted Boeing 747 jet, named Cosmic Girl, was sold for $17 million to aerospace company Stratolaunch.

Another space company, Launcher Inc, bought Virgin Orbit’s launch site and lease in the Mojave Desert for $2.7 million.

Founded in 2017, Virgin Orbit never turned a profit as a public company.

It developed rockets to carry small satellites and is part of Sir Richard’s business empire, which includes airline Virgin Atlantic and space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

The company’s LauncherOne rocket reached space but failed to reach its target trajectory.

The mission was billed as a milestone for space exploration in the UK. It had been hoped it would mark a major step forward in fulfilling an ambition to make the country a global player – from manufacturing satellites to building rockets and creating new spaceports.

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Watch: The Virgin Orbit rocket goes into space

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