Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch company founded by billionaire businessman Richard Branson, is halting all operations and furloughing nearly all of its employees in a bid to shore up its finances.

The employees were notified Wednesday at an all-staff meeting, as were first reported by CNBCbut the company has not said how long the operational suspension will last.

“Virgin Orbit is entering a company-wide operational pause, effective March 16, 2023, and anticipates providing an update on future operations in the coming weeks,” the company said in a statement provided to NBC News.

The decision follows a tumultuous few months for the California-based company. Virgin Orbit’s first attempt to launch satellites from the UK failed in January and its rocket and nine satellites on board were destroyed.

in a report presented on wednesday To the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Virgin Orbit said the company-wide operating hold was put in place «to preserve capital while the Company conducts discussions with potential funding sources and explores strategic opportunities.»

The news sent shares of the company down 18.8% in extended trading on Wednesday. according to Reuters.

A Virgin Orbit aircraft sits on the runway at Cornwall Newquay Airport, in Newquay, UK, last year. File by James Beck/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Virgin Orbit was founded in 2017 with the goal of putting small satellites into orbit. The company uses a modified 747 airliner to transport and then launch its LauncherOne rocket from an altitude of around 35,000 feet.

Virgin Orbit officials have said this air-launch system gives the company more flexibility over competitors whose rockets take off from launch pads on the ground.

The company’s failure in January was a major setback. The mission was a collaboration between Virgin Orbit, the UK Space Agency, the Royal Air Force and Cornwall Council, and marked the aerospace company’s first international launch attempt.

A later investigation found that an engine in the upper stage of the rocket malfunctioned, causing it to shut down prematurely.

“In a space launch, failure is painful for everyone involved,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart he said in a statement on February 14.. “Intense disappointment is quickly channeled into motivation to dig deeper into the cause, understand all the contributing elements, and therefore get back on the flight with a better system and smarter equipment. Our investigation is not yet complete; the team is hard at work and we will pursue the cause and the contributors wherever the system analysis takes us.”

Before departure to the UK, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket successfully reached orbit four times on missions launched from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

In a statement, Virgin Orbit said its next rocket, for an upcoming launch from California, is in the «final stages of integration and testing,» but the company has not released further details about the timing of that mission.

Por admin