MSN.com is reporting Virgin Orbit is laying off most of its staff and ceasing operations after failing to raise enough money to keep trying to build an aircraft-based space launch business. In a call with staff on Thursday, CEO Dan Hart said 675 of about 775 staff will be cut. Company founder Sir Richard Branson stopped putting money into the company a few months ago, and the leadership has been trying to raise funds with other investors ever since. Negotiations with one set of potential investors collapsed a week ago and a last-minute bid to secure financing with another group fizzled on Thursday.
The company was using a modified Boeing 747 as the launch platform for orbital missions and had managed to successfully put four of six payloads into orbit. The most recent launch ended with the rocket and the nine satellites it was carrying in the ocean off the south coast of the U.K. where the mission originated. The company went public at the end of 2021 with shares at $10. The stock closed Thursday at 34 cents a share. Branson remains the largest shareholder with about 75 percent ownership.
There are simply too many players and not a large enough market for smallsat launchers.
And with the multi-satellite launches perfected they can pretty much hitch a ride wherever they need one. Maybe have to add extra maneuvering capacity, but still cheaper than a dedicated launch.
Not necessarily. Significant orbit changes when on orbit are INCREDIBLY energy-demanding. If you need a specific, different orbit, a bit of extra fuel is not going be enough to make a rideshare work. That is why dedicated launches will remain.
Maybe I’m behind the news curve, but happened to Virgin “Galactic” which used a 4 engined Rutan designed carrier for the rocket? Are the companies separate?
Yes, separate entities. Galactic is still a going concern. For now.
Not a big surprise. With SpaceX able to launch over 50 small satellites in a single launch, the need for a specialized smallsat capability is pretty well covered. Next to go will be the spin launch guys that propose to hurl payloads into space.