Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl aircraft carrier arrives in Cornwall
Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company, has been sold off for £29million less than six months after the failure of its mission to launch nine satellites into space. Assets including Cosmic Girl, the company’s converted 747 jet, have been flogged off for just a fraction of the £3billion the company was valued at just two years ago.
In March, Virgin Orbit announced plans to lay off the bulk of its workforce after it failed to secure new investment.
The California-based firm subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, having paused its operations in a likely attempt to prevent the loss of further cash.
January 9’s eagerly anticipated mission, from Spaceport Cornwall, was the first satellite launch from UK soil.
However, it ended in disappointment when the second stage engine of LauncherOne, the rocket attached to Cosmic Girl, experienced what was described as an “anomaly” which prevented it from reaching the required orbit.
Virgin Orbit’s California base, rocket factory and equipment have been bought by Rocket Lab for just under £13million, while Cosmic Girl, was bought by aerospace firm Stratolaunch for £13.6million.
Another company, Launcher Inc, paid £2.17million for Virgin Orbit’s launch site and lease in the Mojave desert.
Virgin Orbit, founded in 2017, was part of Sir Richard’s business empire, which also includes the airline, Virgin Atlantic and the space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.
It has never actually turned a profit.
A statement issued by Virgin Orbit last night said: “Throughout its history, Virgin Orbit has been at the forefront of innovation and has made substantial contributions to the field of commercial rocket launch with its LauncherOne air launch platform.
“The company’s cutting-edge technology, unmatched expertise, and commitment to excellence have propelled it to the vanguard of an emerging commercial launch industry.”
It added: “As Virgin Orbit embarks on this path, the management and employees would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to all stakeholders, including customers, partners, investors, and employees, for their support and dedication over the years.
“It is through their collective efforts that the Company has been able to achieve significant milestones and make lasting contributions to the advancement of satellite launch in the United States and the United Kingdom.
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“Virgin Orbit’s legacy in the space industry will forever be remembered. Its groundbreaking technologies, relentless pursuit of excellence, and unwavering commitment to advancing the frontiers of air launch have left an indelible mark on the industry.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk earlier this month, one space industry insider said: “I guess I’ve always been somewhat sceptical of ‘UK launch’, since for any orbit you choose, there are always better geographic locations somewhere else on the planet that you could choose.
“It’s not uncommon for launch vehicles to fail on the first few tries, but it is rather telling that a single failure has pushed the Virgin company over the edge. That implies they don’t have a queue of customers lined up, I guess.
“It’s a shame that they didn’t quite make it to orbit, but their overall concept was always rather risky.”
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