Prominent aerospace transportation company Virgin Orbit is on the brink of closure, following a series of failed launches and unsuccessful financing efforts that have led to massive layoffs within the company.
According to documents submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Virgin Orbit has laid off 85% of its workforce, approximately 675 employees, with management indicating that the company may cease operations.
The reason for not laying off 100% of the staff is that the remaining employees are needed to handle ongoing company affairs. Once those tasks are completed, it is expected that these employees will also leave the company.
A Vision that Didn’t Pan Out
Virgin Orbit is a spinoff of Virgin Galactic, which is part of the Virgin Group and focuses on private commercial space travel. Unlike its parent company, Virgin Orbit is dedicated to researching air-launched satellites, using a modified Boeing 747 to carry rockets into high altitude before ignition.
The vision behind this approach is sound, as ground launches are often subject to numerous weather restrictions. By carrying the rocket to high altitudes before launch, the impact of weather can be minimized. Additionally, using an aircraft to transport the rocket to higher altitudes requires less fuel than a rocket-powered ascent.
However, the technology behind this approach has proven insufficient. The modified Boeing 747, named “Cosmic Girl,” has had three unsuccessful launches, likely causing investors to lose confidence in the venture.
It should be noted that the failed launches were due to the LauncherOne rocket not reaching its intended orbit, rather than any significant issues with the Cosmic Girl aircraft.
Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart has announced that the company’s financing efforts have been unsuccessful, and operations will cease in the “foreseeable future,” signaling the imminent closure of the company.
Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne