Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company Virgin Orbit closes months after mission failure

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The Virgin Orbit closure comes just months after the space travel company revealed they would make most of its workforce redundant

Sir Richard Branson has seen his rocket company Virgin Orbit close after a mission failure in March. The company’s property, including the iconic jet and land has been sold for $36 million (£29m), which is just a fraction of the $3.7 billion the company had been valued at in 2021.

The news of the closure comes two months after Virgin Orbit said it would make the majority of its workforce redundant after the space company failed to secure any new investment. Earlier this year, the company failed to complete the first ever satellite rocket launch from UK soil.

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Virgin Orbit, which is based in California, filed for bankruptcy protection last month, just weeks after it had paused operations to save its finances. The company’s headquarters, rocket factory and equipment have been bought by Virgin Orbit’s competitor, Rocket Lab, for $16.1 million.

The company’s iconic converted Boeing 747 jet, known as Cosmic Girl, was sold to Stratolaunch for $17m. Launcher Inc, bought the launch site and lease in California’s Mojave desert for $2.7m.

Sir Richard Branson founded Virgin Orbit in 2017 as a branch off from his Virgin Galactic space tourism venture. The company never made profit as a public company despite developing rockets to carry small satellites.

Virgin Orbit made an attempt to launch its first ever satellite mission from UK soil in January, but ended in failure. The LauncherOne rocket successfully reached space but was unable to reach the target orbit.

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Sir Richard Branson has been forced to sell Virgin OrbitSir Richard Branson has been forced to sell Virgin Orbit
Sir Richard Branson has been forced to sell Virgin Orbit | ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/GettyImages)

Despite the failure, the mission was classed as a milestone for UK space exploration. It was hoped that this would be a step forward in turning the country into a global player in the space industry, with the potential to manufacture satellites and build rockets, as well as creating new spaceports.

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