Virgin Orbit crashes out of the space race as assets are sold off
Sir Richard Branson's space launch company Virgin Orbit has closed its doors and ceased to exist after the United States Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware broke it up and sold off its assets to bidders. This comes after a failed attempt to conduct the first launch from Britain in January.
Virgin Orbital took a significant stumble when its LauncherOne rocket suffered a malfunction after being dropped from the Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl mothership over the Irish Sea on January 9, 2023. Though the company was notable for its technology, it was on shaky financial ground since its debut in December 2021, with investments never keeping up with expenditures and a business model that didn't instil confidence in its ability to turn a profit.
After the latest launch failure, Virgin Orbit suspended operations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 4, and laid off 85% of its workforce. The hope was that more money could be raised or the company could be sold off as a whole to new owners as the worst case scenario.
Instead, the court ordered an auction sale of the assets. Four buyers snapped up portions of the company with Rocket Lab spending US$16.1 million for the Virgin Orbit headquarters and manufacturing complex in California, Stratolaunch buying Cosmic Girl for $17 million, Vast Space bought the Mojave, California facility for $2.7 million, while liquidation company Inliper picked up the office equipment.
"Throughout its history, Virgin Orbit has been at the forefront of innovation and has made substantial contributions to the field of commercial rocket launch with its LauncherOne air launch platform," said Virgin Orbit in a statement. "The company's cutting-edge technology, unmatched expertise, and commitment to excellence have propelled it to the vanguard of an emerging commercial launch industry.
"As Virgin Orbit embarks on this path, the management and employees would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to all stakeholders, including customers, partners, investors, and employees, for their support and dedication over the years. It is through their collective efforts that the company has been able to achieve significant milestones and make lasting contributions to the advancement of satellite launch in the United States and the United Kingdom.
"Virgin Orbit's legacy in the space industry will forever be remembered. Its groundbreaking technologies, relentless pursuit of excellence, and unwavering commitment to advancing the frontiers of air launch have left an indelible mark on the industry."
Source: Virgin Orbit
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LOL, most people have never heard of it right now. In five years, it will be a very distant memory to the very few people who remember it. A memory of a company that talked big, spent big, built the first spaceport to never be used and ultimately contributed almost nothing to the space industry.