Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch company founded by British billionaire, Richard Branson, has announced it will be shutting down.
The announcement comes a few months after a space mission ended in disappointment – when a rocket carrying the first satellites launched from the UK failed to reach orbit and was lost.
The California-based firm, which had already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States in early April, has auctioned off its main assets, recovering just over $36m.
That figure is barely 1% of the value the company reached in late 2021 on Wall Street, when it was valued at $3.5 billion.
An agreement was also made to sell the bulk of its Long Beach, California, headquarters to a small-launch firm called Rocket Lab USA.
According to a court filing, Rocket Lab won the Virgin Orbits primary manufacturing site for $16m.
The purchase agreement included machinery and equipment that had been used to manufacture Virgin Orbits flagship LauncherOne rockets.
In a statement announcing it was selling its assets to four winning bidders and then folding, Virgin Orbit thanked its employees and stakeholders and said the company will be remembered for its ‘groundbreaking technologies.’
‘Throughout its history, Virgin Orbit has been at the forefront of innovation and has made substantial contributions to the field of commercial rocket launch,’ the company said on Tuesday, May 23.
The satellite launch company was formed as part of space tourism business Virgin Galactic, which transported Branson into sub-orbital flight in 2021 nine days ahead of his billionaire rival, the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
‘Its goal was to provide swift and adaptable space launch services for the growing small satellites market.’
The company suffered a crippling setback earlier this year when an attempt to launch the first rocket into space from British soil ended in failure.
In January, the launch of a rocket from Cornwall drew huge crowds and mass interest. The company said the rocket could not reach the required altitude and was later lost.