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Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit files for bankruptcy

Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch company founded by the billionaire Sir Richard Branson, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US after last-ditch efforts to find funding for the struggling space firm fell through.

The satellite launch company halted operations weeks ago but it hopes to find a buyer for the business.

The company, based in California, announced last week that it would cut 85% of its 750-strong workforce.

The company, which was spun off from space tourism firm Virgin Galactic in 2017, sends satellites into orbit using rockets launched from a modified Boeing (BA.N) 747 plane.

The Long Beach, California-based company lodged the filing seeking a sale of its assets in a Delaware court days after announcing the layoff of roughly 85% of its 750 employees.

Virgin Orbit spun out of Virgin Galactic way back in 2017, as the Branson-backed space company divided its efforts into two separate avenues of focus: Galactic would pursue human spaceflight, targeting suborbital trips for scientists and wealth thrill-seekers. That has borne some fruit, but also hasn’t yet achieved the scale and cadence of operation that it aspired to have accomplished at this stage. Orbit, meanwhile, was aimed at delivering small payloads to low Earth orbit using small rockets that launched from the wings of a large carrier ship, a modified 747-400 commercial passenger aircraft.

Virgin Orbit is 75 per cent owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group. It lodged the filing in the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware seeking a sale of its assets.


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