Richard Branson’s rocket firm Virgin Orbit files for bankruptcy, 750 staff at risk of losing jobs

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Virgin Orbit has filed for bankruptcy in the US after failing to attract new investment.

Virgin Orbit, a rocket business owned by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, has filed for bankruptcy in the US after failing to attract new investment. The satellite launch company halted operations a few weeks ago, but it still expects to sell the company.

Based in California, the firm announced last week that it would cut 85% of its 750-strong workforce. Virgin Orbit’s boss Dan Hart said that although the company had "taken great efforts" to  address its finances and secure more funding, "we ultimately must do what is best for the business."

Earlier this year, a Virgin Orbit rocket failed to complete the first ever satellite launch from UK soil. Hart said Virgin Orbit will now concentrate on finding a buyer for the business "to provide clarity on the future of the company to its customers, vendors, and employees."

In a US regulatory filing filed last week, Virgin Orbit said it made the decision "in order to reduce expenses in light of the company’s inability to secure meaningful funding." This means, the layoffs will impact approximately 675 employees who "are located in all areas of the company."

It said Sir Richard’s investment firm Virgin Investments has injected $10.9 million (£8.8 million) into Virgin Orbit "to fund severance and other costs related to the workforce reduction". Virgin Orbit said it expects payments to laid off staff and other costs to total around $15 million.

As a public company, the firm, which was established in 2017, has not made a profit. It is part of Sir Richard Branson’s business empire, which also encompasses the airline Virgin Atlantic and the space tourism firm Virgin Galactic.

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