Virgin Orbit in freefall, cutting 85pc of its workforce

31 Mar 2023

Image: © JHVEPhoto/

Following a failed launch in January and a lack of funding, the company reportedly plans to cease operations ‘for the foreseeable future’.

Satellite launch company Virgin Orbit is cutting 85pc of its workforce – roughly 675 staff – after it failed to secure “meaningful” funding.

The company said these job losses will impact “all areas” of the company and will lead to extra charges of around $15m due to severance pay and outplacement services, according to an SEC filing.

The change also appear to be immediate, as Virgin Orbit expects the reduction to be “substantially complete” by 3 April.

The announcement has further impacted the company’s beleaguered stock price, which fell by more than 40pc in extended trading yesterday (30 March) and by 82pc since the beginning of the year, according to CNBC.

Virgin Orbit developed a system to use a customised Boeing 747 to help send satellites into space, by firing a rocket from the plane in mid-flight. But the company suffered a hit in January when a historic UK mission to launch satellites it led ended in failure.

The mission was successful in sending a rocket to space, but an issue occurred during the firing of the rocket’s second stage engine, ending the mission prematurely.

Virgin Orbit was spun out from Virgin Galactic, the suborbital passenger spaceflight company also founded by Branson, in 2017. In 2020, another anomaly cancelled a Virgin Orbit launch seconds after the LauncherOne rocket was released.

The company marked its first commercial launch in June 2021, before going public the same year after merging with a special-purpose acquisition company listed on the Nasdaq.

With the massive reduction in staff, the company’s future looks uncertain. CNBC reports that its CEO Dan Hart told employees that Virgin Orbit will cease operations “for the foreseeable future”.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the cash-strapped company was in talks to get a $200m investment from US investor Matthew Brown in a private share deal.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic