Virgin Orbit Puts Operations On Hold

LauncherOne drop test.
Credit: Virgin Orbit

COLORADO SPRINGS—Troubled space launch company Virgin Orbit has temporarily suspended operations and furloughed almost all its staff as it continues efforts to seek new funding.

The company suffered a key financial loss following a failed launch attempt from the UK with its LauncherOne vehicle on Jan. 9 and requires additional investment to support plans for its next mission series, planned to take place from Mojave, California, later this year.

The UK launch failure was attributed to a loose fuel filter which likely caused the premature shutdown of the vehicle’s second stage Newton 4 engine. It came on top of significant delays of the mission itself. The event also followed net losses of $43.6 million, which were reported in the company’s most recent third-quarter 2022 results.

In a statement, Virgin Orbit confirmed that it is “initiating a company-wide operational pause, effective March 16, 2023, and anticipates providing an update on go-forward operations in the coming weeks.”

Virgin Orbit was founded by Richard Branson in 2017. Over four successful missions between January 2021 and July 2022, it delivered 33 satellites into orbit. The company had been expanding production of LauncherOne vehicles at its facility in Long Beach, California, where news of the suspension of operations was broken to staff on March 15. 

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.