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Virgin Orbit to lay off most of its staff

Virgin Orbit fires its LauncherOne rocket from a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft. (Virgin Orbit)

Small-satellite launch provider Virgin Orbit plans to lay off about 675 employees, or about 85% of its workforce, to reduce expenses amid a cash shortage, the US-based company announced on 30 March.

“Those impacted [by the job cuts] are located in all areas of the company,” Virgin Orbit wrote in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The lay-offs will force Virgin Orbit to cease launch operations, at least temporarily, Janes has learnt. The company, which was part of Richard Branson's UK-based Virgin Group before becoming publicly traded in 2021, has been seeking a financial infusion to sustain its activities but has had no luck so far. It continues to explore bailout options, including a sale of the company.

Virgin Orbit, one of several new companies competing for the growing small-satellite launch market, has been burning through cash. In its latest earnings report released in November 2022, the company said it incurred a net loss of USD139.5 million on a revenue of USD33 million for the first nine months of 2022.

Virgin Orbit's financial problems have been exacerbated by an unsuccessful launch from Spaceport Cornwall in the UK on 9 January, in which Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket, fired from a modified Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft, prematurely shut down and failed to reach orbit. The UK Ministry of Defence's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the US Naval Research Laboratory were among the customers for that launch.

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