Virgin Orbit is ceasing operations “for the foreseeable future” and laying off about 90% of its workforce, according to CNBC.
pristine orbit CEO Dan Hart announced the news during a general company meeting on Thursday afternoon (March 30), CNBC’s Michael Sheetz reported (opens in a new tab).
“Unfortunately, we were unable to secure the funding to provide a clear path for this venture,” Hart said Thursday, according to Sheetz, who obtained the audio of the meeting. “We have no choice but to implement immediate, dramatic and extremely painful changes.”
Related: Virgin Orbit launch failure leaves opportunity open for UK as space ‘underdog’
Virgin Orbit has been trying for weeks to fight through a difficult financial situation. The company, which is part of the billionaire Richard Bransonof the Virgin group, paused operations and laid off most of its employees on March 15 as it tried to secure enough funding to move forward.
About a week ago, the company seemed close to hang a lifebuoy, in the form of a $200 million investment from Texas-based venture capitalist Matthew Brown. But that deal apparently failed.
Added to Virgin Orbit’s difficulties are the failure of its most recent launch, from Spaceport Cornwall in England on January 9, resulting in the loss of nine satellites. The company traced the anomaly to a fuel filter in the upper stage of its 70-foot-long (21-meter) LauncherOne rocket. The fuel filter was detached during flighta determined failure investigation.
Prior to the January 9 mission, which was intended to be the first successful orbital launch to take off from the UK, Virgin Orbit had had four consecutive successful missions. Together, these flights put a total of 33 satellites into orbit.
LauncherOne takes off under the wing of a modified 747 named Cosmic Girl. The plane drops the rocket high into the sky, and LauncherOne then steers itself into orbit.
Virgin Orbit touted this air launch strategy – which is also employed by its sister company Galactic Virgo – as more flexible and responsive than using traditional vertically launched rockets.
Virgin Orbit will provide severance pay to all employees who will be laid off, Hart said at Thursday’s town hall meeting, according to CNBC’s Sheetz.
“This company, this team – all of you – means a lot to me,” Hart said during the reunion. “And I haven’t stopped and I won’t stop supporting you, whether you’re here on the trip or you’re somewhere else.”
Mike Wall is the author of “Over there (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or Facebook (opens in a new tab).