NEW YORK, May 24, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, announced Tuesday it is permanently ceasing operations, just months after a major mission failure.
The California-based firm, which had already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States in early April, auctioned off its main assets, recovering just over $36 million.
That is barely one percent of the temporary worth it reached in late 2021 on Wall Street, when it was valued at some $3.5 billion.
In a statement announcing it is selling its assets to four winning bidders and then folding, Virgin Orbit thanked its employees and stakeholders and said the company will be remembered for its "groundbreaking technologies."
"Throughout its history, Virgin Orbit has been at the forefront of innovation and has made substantial contributions to the field of commercial rocket launch," the company said.
Virgin Orbit was created in 2017 by splitting from Virgin Galactic, Branson's space tourism company.
Its goal was to provide swift and adaptable space launch services for the growing small satellites market, by air-launching mini rockets from a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft.
The company suffered a crippling setback earlier this year when an attempt to launch the first rocket into space from British soil ended in failure.