Virgin Orbit to Cease All Operations and Lay off 85 Percent of its Workforce
By Jess Weatherbed
Virgin Orbit, the satellite-launching subsidiary of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has announced that it will lay off 85 percent of its workforce and is ceasing operations “for the foreseeable future.” The company, which aimed to provide a more affordable option for launching small satellites into orbit, had been struggling to secure funding to stay afloat and compete with larger players in the private space industry like SpaceX and Blue Origin.
The news comes two months after its most recent mission in Cornwall, UK failed due to a dislodged rocket fuel filter.
Just 100 employees remain at Virgin Orbit, with 675 roles to be cut by April 3rd
“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, dramatic, and extremely painful changes,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart, according to meeting audio obtained by CNBC. Hart described the meeting as “probably the hardest all-hands that we’ve ever done in my life.”
On a very bad day for Virgin Orbit, revisiting one of their best moments: LauncherOne release from Cosmic Girl and main engine burn as part of the #LaunchDemo2 a couple of years ago pic.twitter.com/OJg1rw3yEl
— Chris Combs (iterative design enjoyer) (@DrChrisCombs) March 30, 2023
The announcement comes two weeks after Virgin Orbit paused operations and furloughed nearly all its workforce on March 15th while the company attempted to secure additional investment. The satellite launch company disclosed an operating loss of $50.5 million in its last quarterly earnings report, and Branson’s Virgin Group has reportedly injected $60 million to keep the business afloat since November.
Virgin Orbit emerged as an offshoot of Branson’s space tourism company Virgin Galactic in 2017. Unlike rival companies like SpaceX that launch heavy rockets from the ground, Virgin Orbit launched its LauncherOne two-stage rocket from midair, carried to a height of 35,000 feet by a converted Boeing 747 dubbed Cosmic Girl. It has carried out six total missions since 2020, with four successful launches and two failures.