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Richard Branson’s rocket firm axes nearly entire workforce

Virgin Orbit will let go 85% of its staff and cease operations for the foreseeable future, a filing says

Richard Branson’s satellite launch company, Virgin Orbit, has revealed it will cut 675 jobs, or almost all of its personnel, after failing to secure funding over a failed mission.

According to a Friday filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the California-based firm will eliminate all but 100 positions, with the layoffs reportedly to affect every team and department.

“Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to secure the funding to provide a clear path for this company,” CEO Dan Hart told employees during an all-hands meeting on Thursday afternoon, as quoted by CNBC. “We have no choice but to implement immediate, dramatic and extremely painful changes,” he reportedly said, stressing it would be “probably the hardest all-hands that we’ve ever done in my life.”

According to the chief executive, Virgin Orbit is ceasing operations “for the foreseeable future.” The company will “provide a severance package for every departing” employee, Hart promised, with a cash payment, extension of benefits, and support in finding a new position. A “direct pipeline” has been reportedly set up with sister company Virgin Galactic for hiring.

The announcement, which sparked fears that the firm may be on the brink of collapse, comes after Virgin Orbit’s failure in January in its mission to launch the first satellite from UK soil. The company, founded by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, revealed the results of the investigation in February, showing that its rocket’s fuel filter had become dislodged causing an engine to become overheated and other components to malfunction over the Atlantic Ocean.

READ MORE: ‘Historic’ UK space mission ends in fiasco

The mission was supposed to be the first launch of commercial satellites from Western Europe for Virgin Orbit, a subsidiary of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. In 2020, the company’s first launch using LauncherOne ended up in failure, but later Virgin Orbit conducted several successful missions from US soil, delivering satellites to Earth orbit.

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March 31, 2023 at 10:37PM

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