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Virgin Orbit: Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company lays off 85% of staff




  • By Annabelle Liang
  • Business reporter

image source, Virgin Orbit

Caption,

Sir Richard Branson

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company Virgin Orbit says it will lay off 85% of its staff after failing to secure new investment.

The company will also cease operations in the foreseeable future, according to media reports.

It comes 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.

The company’s shares plunged more than 44% in after-hours trading in New York on Thursday.

In a US regulatory filing, Virgin Orbit said it made the decision “to reduce expenses in light of the company’s inability to secure meaningful financing.”

The layoffs will affect approximately 675 employees who “are located in all areas of the company.”

It said Sir Richard’s investment company Virgin Investments has injected $10.9m (£8.8m) into Virgin Orbit “to fund severance pay and other costs associated with the workforce reduction”.

Virgin Orbit said it expects payments for layoffs and other costs to total about $15 million.

It comes amid media reports that the company’s boss has told employees that the company will suspend its activities until further notice.

“We have no choice but to implement immediate, dramatic and extremely painful changes,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said at a meeting with employees, according to CNBC, which first reported the news.

Virgin Orbit did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.

The company, which was founded in 2017, has not made a profit as a public company.

It develops 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.

video caption,

Watch: The Virgin Orbit rocket goes into space

The company’s LauncherOne rocket – which was launched from the Boeing 747 plane Cosmic Girl – reached space but failed to reach its target trajectory.

The mission was billed as a milestone for space exploration in the UK. It was 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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