Image: Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch company founded by Richard Branson, has ‘paused’ its operations and furloughed its workforce in the hope of a funding lifeline.

Virgin Orbit said in a statement: “Virgin Orbit is initiating a company-wide operational pause, effective (from) March 16 2023, and anticipates providing an update on go-forward operations in the coming weeks.”

Councillor Louis Gardner, of Cornwall Council, said: “It is clearly a difficult time for the Virgin Orbit team as they navigate the next stage of their company, and we will await further information from them as events unfold.”

Spaceport Cornwall

He added: “Our focus at Spaceport Cornwall is to continue to grow the space cluster in Cornwall, alongside progressing relationships with spaceflight operators. We remain the only licensed spaceport in the UK and our plan is to build on that position.”

The news comes following the failure of its first attempted orbital launch from the UK on January 9. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne experienced an anomaly, leading to a premature shutdown of the rocket and failure to reach orbit.

The rocket components and payload fell back to Earth but all satellites onboard were lost. Virgin Orbit blamed the “anomaly” on a fuel filter that became dislodged during the launch, which caused an engine to overheat.

Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter