Virgin Orbit, the satellite company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. after failing to secure sufficient funding to continue operations. This announcement comes less than a week after the company laid off most of its staff and ceased operations. According to documents, the decision was made as a result of the company’s failure to obtain the necessary funding to keep it afloat. The bankruptcy filing listed assets of around $243 million and debts of around $153 million as of September 30. The company will receive a $31.6 million infusion from Branson’s Virgin Investments to keep it afloat throughout the process and is committed to a swift sale. Despite the company’s efforts to secure more funding, CEO Dan Hart said that “we ultimately must do what is best for the business.”
Virgin Orbit’s troubles began in January after the company’s high-profile launch attempt out of Britain failed. The attempt was considered a significant setback to the UK’s nascent space program, and marked the beginning of the end for Virgin Orbit, which was valued at $3.2 billion when it went public less than two years ago. Virgin Orbit spun out from Virgin Galactic in 2017 to focus on satellite launches. In the months following the failed launch, Virgin Orbit’s stock plummeted, and amid crisis talks to secure funding, the company ceased operations and laid off most of its staff.
Virgin Orbit’s cutting-edge launch technology is expected to appeal to buyers, said CEO Dan Hart, who thanked staff and celebrated the company’s 33 successful satellite launches. The company’s bankruptcy has now added Branson’s Virgin Orbit to the list of billionaires racing into space to grab a piece of the emerging market, alongside Elon Musk of Tesla and Twitter and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Forbes estimates Branson’s net worth at $3 billion, largely derived from his portfolio of “Virgin” branded businesses, including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Media, and Virgin Galactic.