Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc., a satellite launch company owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, has filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The company had debts of $153.5 million and assets of $243 million, leading to its Chapter 11 petition.
This comes at the end of Virgin Orbit’s dramatic plunge which started with a failed launch in January 2021, which was meant to be celebrated as the first-ever British orbital launch. Unfortunately, a fuel filter on the rocket deployed from under the wing of a modified Boeing Co. 747 plane caused the mission to fail, resulting in the loss of 9 small satellites. This was accompanied by the stock price plummeting and, as a result, Virgin Orbit had to temporarily shut down operations in March and undertake staff cutbacks of 85%.
Virgin Orbit was established in 2017, having been under development at Virgin Galactic for a number of years. Its business was based on launching small satellites into orbit and its LauncherOne rockets were deployed at a high altitude from beneath the wings of a modified airplane. The company managed four successful flights into orbit in 2021 and 2022.
Branson is no stranger to the world of space exploration and has made considerable investments in both Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. and Virgin Orbit. He is the founder and chairman of these companies and has his name associated with multiple aerospace projects. He is also the founder of Virgin Atlantic airline and has an estimated net worth of more than $6 billion.