Virgin Orbit Cuts Most of its Workforce, Cites Lack of Funding

The satellite launch company revealed layoffs of about 85 percent of staff in a filing with the SEC.

Virgin Orbit’s launch aircraft, called Cosmic Girl, releases a LauncherOne rocket. [Courtesy: Virgin Orbit]

Virgin Orbit, a satellite launch and services company, is ceasing operations and laying off staff due to its “inability to secure meaningful funding,” the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Yesterday, in an 8-K filing, the company announced a plan to cut its workforce by about 675 employees, or about 85 percent of its total staff. Virgin said the affected workers “are in all areas of the company.”

The company, which grew out of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, went public in late 2021 through a merger with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II, a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

The announcement follows a high-profile failure earlier this year of the company’s LauncherOne system, which includes a rocket that carries satellites into orbit after being released from a high-flying Boeing 747. Following the launch, which initially seemed to proceed normally, “the system experienced an anomaly, ending the mission prematurely,” the company said at the time.

Virgin estimated it would take charges totaling about $15 million, including $8.8 million in severance and benefit costs and $6.5 million largely related to outplacement expenses and effects of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN Act. The company said it expects to take most of the charges in this year’s first quarter and to “substantially complete” the layoffs by April 3.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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