Billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit exits rocket race after mission failure

Sir Richard's California-based company will sell its assets to four winning bidders. Credit: AP/PA

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit has announced it is selling its assets and will cease operations months after a mission failure in the UK.

In a statement, the “responsive space launch provider” said: “(Our) legacy in the space industry will forever be remembered.

"Its ground-breaking technologies, relentless pursuit of excellence, and unwavering commitment to advancing the frontiers of air launch have left an indelible mark on the industry.”

The California-based company will sell its assets to four winning bidders.

“As Virgin Orbit embarks on this path, the management and employees would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to all stakeholders, including customers, partners, investors, and employees, for their support and dedication over the years,” the statement said.

Virgin Orbit said in March it would cut 85% of its workforce after failing to secure new investment.

It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US in April.

Founded in 2017, the company developed rockets to carry satellites.

A repurposed Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft, named Cosmic Girl, carrying Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket. Credit: PA

But the group, which was listed in New York in 2021, has struggled for profitability and been weighed down by its significant debt pile.

As of September, the company had debts of $153.5 million (£123m).

In January, the group had sought to complete the first satellite launch from UK soil, with hopes the mission would be a major stepping stone for space exploration from the UK.

The firm’s LauncherOne rocket failed to reach orbit and saw its payload of US and UK intelligence satellites dive into the ocean.

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