Virgin Orbit Declares Bankruptcy After Unsuccessful Launch and Insufficient Funding


Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch company founded by Richard Branson, recently filed for bankruptcy protection after a failure to reach orbit in January. The failed launch in Cornwall, England had been a high-profile event and the nine satellites on board were lost. In the wake of this setback, financing for the company began to dry up, leading to a market value decrease of $3.5 billion. As a result, Virgin Orbit had to lay off 675 employees, or 85% of its work force. The company submitted a bankruptcy filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, listing assets of around $243 million and debts of $153 million.

Virgin Orbit pursued an innovative approach to satellite launches, which involved a modified Boeing 747 aircraft carrying a rocket with a payload of satellites. When the rocket reached a certain altitude, it would detach and fire its engine to reach orbit, allowing the satellites to be deployed. This idea had taken shape over five years of research and testing, and Virgin Orbit had achieved successful launches from the Mojave Desert in California four out of five times. However, it was unable to gain a foothold in the satellite launch process, as it had less capacity than competitors like SpaceX.

Richard Branson is an English entrepreneur, investor and business magnate. He is the founder of the Virgin Group, which is composed of more than 400 companies. He has a long history of entrepreneurial successes, having founded Virgin Records in the 1970s, which led to the creation of aviation company, Virgin Atlantic, in 1984. He also ventured into space exploration, developing Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit. Branson is a prominent philanthropist, having supported charities and humanitarian causes in the fields of health, education, and the environment.