Virgin Orbit suspends launches and dismisses employees

Virgin Orbit, owned by Richard Branson, suspends all operations and dismisses a number of employees. It is still trying to recover from a failed launch attempt in January and is looking for new sources of funding.

Virgin Orbit rocket company. Source: UK Space Agency/PA

Virgin Orbit stops operations

Bloomberg reported that on Wednesday, at a general meeting of employees, Virgin Orbit announced the dismissal of most of them. Only a small staff of managers remained at the enterprise.

This measure is called forced and temporary in the company itself. Employees are promised to be restored as soon as the company overcomes difficulties and finds new sources of financing. Virgin Orbit did not comment on these messages. They only confirmed that they were really stopping these operations.

All operations will be suspended from March 16 and until then this downtime will last at least a few weeks. The news of this has already led to a 52 percent drop in Virgin Orbit’s stock price on all exchanges.

Consequences of a failed launch

The owner of Virgin Orbit is billionaire Richard Branson. But last year the company was experiencing significant financial troubles. In the first nine months of last year, it suffered USD 149 million in damage. And in the report for the 4th quarter of last year, which they promise to publish on March 29, nothing good is expected either.

It got to the point that the company repeatedly lent money from another creation of Branson — Virgin Investments Ltd. But even this only allowed it to maintain its working capacity last year. Great hopes were pinned on the first commercial launch from the British Isles in January.

Then a rocket with nine commercial satellites on board should launch from a specially equipped Boeing 747. The take-off from the Cornwall cosmodrome took place as planned, and the rocket was launched. But then its flight did not go according to plan. It went off course, began to fall, and finally burned up in the atmosphere along with all the satellites.

Since then, the company has tried to restart after the shock and investigated the causes of the accident. The culprit was an untimely shifted fuel filter. Experts promised to fix everything in the next launches. But it seems that they may not take place very soon.

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