Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit to Shut Down Following Bankruptcy, Assets Sold in Auction
Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch provider founded by Sir Richard Branson, has confirmed it is shutting down after selling its facility leases and equipment to three aerospace companies following bankruptcy.
CNBC reports that Virgin Orbit, a pioneer in satellite launch services, announced its closure after selling its equipment and facility leases to three aerospace firms in the wake of bankruptcy. Virgin Orbit, which Sir Richard Branson founded as a spin-off from Virgin Galactic in 2017, made significant advancements in the space industry. However, the business experienced financial issues, which slowed execution and made it challenging to raise money. These difficulties ultimately resulted in bankruptcy and the choice to cease operations.
“As Virgin Orbit embarks on this path, the management and employees would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to all stakeholders,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
In a recently finished auction, Virgin Orbit’s assets brought in about $36 million, but its rockets and intellectual property have not yet been sold. Among the interested parties, Rocket Lab made a winning offer of $16.1 million for the Long Beach, California, headquarters of Virgin Orbit. The acquisition will enhance Rocket Lab’s production, manufacturing, and testing capabilities, particularly as it develops its larger Neutron rocket.
“With Neutron’s design and development well-advanced, this transaction represents a capital expenditure savings opportunity to augment our production capability to bring Neutron to the launch pad quickly to serve our customers and their future success,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck.
With plans to use it to increase their capacity for conducting hypersonic flight tests, Stratolaunch won its $17 million bid for the 747 aircraft owned by Virgin Orbit. For $2.7 million, Launcher, a division of Vast Space, bought a Mojave facility and other assets from Virgin Orbit. For $650,000, a liquidation company named Inliper purchased the business’s office supplies.
Despite the company’s notable accomplishments, which included launching six missions since 2020 and successfully entering orbit with a privately developed launch vehicle, Virgin Orbit struggled with money problems. The business was forced to halt operations and lay off almost all of its employees before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April.
Tony Gingiss, the former COO of Virgin Orbit, apologized for the company’s demise in an email to staff members. “You deserved better than this!” Gingiss wrote. He applauded the Virgin Orbit workforce for being “part of something audacious, challenging, and fulfilling,” but lamented the company’s inability to demonstrate its full potential in the market.
Despite the company’s best efforts, it was unable to find a wholesale buyer to preserve its assets and intellectual property, which led to the asset auction. It is still unclear what will happen to Virgin Orbit’s remaining assets, including its rockets and intellectual property.