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Virgin Orbit shuts down and fires 85% of its staff.

Creator: Matt Hartman

Virgin Orbit, Richard Branson’s satellite-launching firm, will lay off 85% of its employees and cease operations “for the foreseeable future.” The startup wanted to launch tiny satellites more cheaply and was trying to get finance to compete with SpaceX and Blue Origin.

The news arrives two months after its last flight in Cornwall, UK, failed due to a dislodged rocket fuel filter.

Virgin Orbit will cease operations and lay off 675 employees across all departments, according to a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing. By April 3, the firm will have 100 employees after layoffs. Virgin Investments would provide $10.9 million to Virgin Orbit to cover severance and other closure costs of $15 million (as reported by the Financial Times).

“Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to find funds to give a clear future for this firm. According to CNBC conference audio, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart remarked, “We have to execute rapid, significant, and highly painful adjustments.” Hart called the gathering “probably the hardest all-hands that we’ve ever done.”

The statement comes two weeks after Virgin Orbit halted operations and furloughed virtually all its employees on March 15 to raise funds. The satellite launch company’s last quarterly earnings report showed an operational deficit of $50.5 million, and Branson’s Virgin Group has allegedly infused $60 million to keep it going since November.

In 2017, Branson’s Virgin Galactic spun out Virgin Orbit. Virgin Orbit used Cosmic Lady, a modified Boeing 747, to launch its LauncherOne two-stage rocket from midair at 35,000 feet, unlike SpaceX, which launches hefty rockets from the ground. Since 2020, it has launched six times, four successfully and two unsuccessfully.

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