Mar 22, 2023
Virgin Orbit Resumes Some Operations in Bid to Shake off Crisis
(Bloomberg) -- Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc. said it’s targeting “an incremental resumption of operations” after temporarily halting activities last week in the wake of a failed satellite launch a few months ago that threw the ambitious space program off course.
“Our first step will begin Thursday of this week, when we plan to return a subset of our team to focus on critical areas for our next mission,” Virgin Orbit said in a statement. “We are looking forward to getting back to our mission and returning to orbit.”
The company is continuing discussions with potential investors and exploring strategic opportunities, it said in a stock exchange filing Wednesday. It plans for a further resumption of operations on March 27, it said.
Virgin Orbit surged as much as 74%, its biggest intraday gain yet. Before today, the stock had lost 76% this year, closing at 44 cents on Tuesday.
The company said it’s preparing for its next launch, without specifying when that might occur. The update comes a week after the the Richard Branson-founded satellite launch firm said it would halt operations while attempting to secure more funding, throwing the future of the business in doubt. Almost all of Virgin Orbit’s staff were furloughed for a week.
Reuters reported that Virgin Orbit is working on a $200 million infusion from Texas-based venture capital investor Matthew Brown via a private share placement, citing a term sheet. Following a meeting by Virgin Orbit’s board on Tuesday, the two sides plan to close the deal on Friday, according to the non-binding term sheet, Reuters said.
Virgin Orbit is trying to emerge from a high-profile failure in January, when the attempted launch of nine small satellites out of Spaceport Cornwall suffered a mishap during flight. The rocket, which was released from underneath the wing of a Boeing 747, never reached its proposed altitude, leading to the loss of all satellites on board.
The company has since blamed the accident on a fuel filter that became dislodged during flight. Besides the operational and financial impact, the failure was also a blemish on the UK’s ambition to establish itself as a European force in space as the January expedition was heralded as the first orbital rocket launch from British soil.
(Updates with stock reaction in fourth paragraph.)
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