Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit temporarily pausing operations and furloughing most employees
Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit paused all operations and furloughed most employees on Wednesday, about two months after the aerospace company suffered a mid-flight rocket failure while trying to send several satellites into space, a spokesperson confirmed to Fox Business.
It’s unclear how long the furlough will last. Employees are retaining their benefits and can use paid-time off while the company comes up with a plan for the future, which they are hoping to announce by next week, the spokesperson said.
Virgin Orbit, one of several companies competing to commercialize the space industry, uses a modified Boeing 747 dubbed “Cosmic Girl” to launch a rocket in mid-air, which then carries its payload to orbit.
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The company attempted to launch nine satellites from the United Kingdom in January, but the LauncherOne rocket failed at some point during the firing of its second stage engine.
The company is continuing its anomaly investigation from the January flight.
“We expect to be able to return to flight as soon as that investigation has concluded,” a Virgin Orbit spokesperson said Wednesday. “We’re in the final stages of that… as well as integrating the changes and lessons learned from that into our next rocket, which we plan to fly later this year.”
CNBC originally reported the news of the company’s pause in operations on Wednesday.
Shares of Virgin Orbit stock are down about 83% over the past year.