Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit Slashing 85% Of Its Workforce

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Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, is laying off almost its entire workforce after experiencing difficulties securing funding following a failed mission in January. The company, based in Long Beach, California, is cutting 675 jobs, representing about 85% of its workforce. Virgin Orbit paused all operations earlier this month, but did not disclose how long the halt would last. In January, its mission to launch the first satellites into orbit from Europe failed after a rocket’s upper stage shut down prematurely.

The company expects to incur about $15.5m in charges related to the job cuts. According to the regulatory filing, Virgin Orbit expects to incur approximately $15.5 million in charges related to the job cuts, with $8.8 million being severance payments and employee benefits costs and $6.5 million being other employee-related costs.

These charges are expected to take place mostly in the first quarter. According to a statement from Virgin Orbit in February, an investigation into the failed January mission found that the issue was caused by the rocket’s fuel filter becoming dislodged, leading to an engine becoming overheated and other components malfunctioning over the Atlantic Ocean. This caused the rocket’s upper stage to prematurely shut down and the satellites to remain in the rocket’s upper stage, rather than reaching orbit.