Things are looking turbulent for Virgin Group’s satellite launch company, Virgin Orbit, as the company has reportedly paused all operations and furloughed the majority of its staff.
The company, which builds rockets that launch small satellites, told Space News it was entering a phase of “operational pause.”
“Virgin Orbit is initiating a company-wide operational pause, effective March 16, 2023, and anticipates providing an update on go-forward operations in the coming weeks,” the company said.
According to people familiar with the matter, nearly all employees were informed that they would be put on fan unpaid furlough for an unspecified amount of time during an all-hands meeting at the end of the workday on Wednesday.
Employees were, however, given the option to cash in any remaining PTO if necessary and were told that payroll would be moved up by one week.
Related: Virgin Orbit Shares Plummet As Historic Launch Fails Due to ‘Anomaly’
Multiple outlets have previously reported that Virgin Orbit is undergoing a rough financial period and needs investors and funding to continue operating at optimal efficiency.
An SEC filing on behalf of the company on March 15 confirmed this, revealing that the operational pause was being instated “in order to conserve capital while the Company conducts discussions with potential funding sources and explores strategic opportunities,” noting that “there can be no assurance that these discussions will result in any transaction.”
The news, though jarring, isn’t entirely surprising given the company’s series of setbacks that culminated in a failed satellite launch out of the U.K. earlier this year.
Once airborne, the Virgin Orbit rocket experienced an unexpected secondary engine failure, though the crew inside landed safely on the ground. It would have been the first successful satellite mission out of the U.K. in history had it gone as planned.
By 11 a.m. EST, the company’s stock plummeted 32% in a 24-hour period, mounting about an 88% loss over one year.
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