Virgin Orbit Hits Pause: Furloughs Employees, Halts Operations to Shore up Finances

Virgin Orbit has decided to temporarily halt its operations starting Thursday.

As per reports, almost all employees at the satellite launch firm will also be furloughed, indicating that the company is facing financial difficulties. The decision was communicated to the employees at a meeting on Wednesday, where the management assured them of a further update next week. This move comes after the company’s failed attempt to launch the first-ever satellite mission from UK soil in January.

During the meeting, Chief Executive Dan Hart explained that the layoff would give Virgin Orbit time to finalise a new investment plan. A source present at the event told a news agency that Mr. Hart stated that the duration of the layoff was unclear, but employees would receive more information by the middle of next week. The company’s shares reportedly plummeted 18.8% in extended trading.

The company released a statement,

“Virgin Orbit is initiating a company-wide operational pause, effective March 16, 2023, and anticipates providing an update on go-forward operations in the coming weeks.”

In January, Virgin Orbit attempted a major satellite launch from Newquay, Cornwall, using a jumbo jet called Cosmic Girl to transport a rocket high over the Atlantic Ocean. Although the rocket initially ignited and began ascending, it ultimately suffered an “anomaly” and was unable to release the 9 satellites it was carrying. Thankfully, the carrier 747 jet safely returned to base, but the loss of the satellites was a significant setback.

Virgin Orbit later disclosed that the mission had failed due to a dislodged rocket fuel filter that caused one of the engines to overheat. The company has been investigating the issue and is currently integrating necessary modifications into their next production rocket, which is in the final stages of testing.

The satellite launch was supposed to be a crucial moment for the UK’s space industry, paving the way for a new era of home-grown launch capabilities. The ultimate goal is to position the UK as a major player in the global space industry, from satellite manufacturing to rocket building and the establishment of new spaceports. Despite the setback, Virgin Orbit is committed to its mission and remains determined to achieve this ambitious objective.

It remains to be seen how the situation will unfold, but the company’s leadership seems determined to address the underlying issues and ensure a stable future for the firm.

Written by Muhammad Tanveer