Virgin Orbit announced May 23 that it is closing for good after a sale of assets totaling $36.4 million.
Rocket Lab USA will get the major part of Virgin Orbit’s Long Beach, Calif., headquarters and manufacturing facilities.
Rocket Lab USA agreed to pay $16 million for the facilities during a May 22 auction that continued Chapter 11 bankruptcy court proceedings. The sale includes machinery and equipment Virgin Orbit had used to build the LauncherOne rockets.
In addition, Stratolaunch will get Cosmic Girl – the modified Boeing 747 – that Virgin Orbit used to launch LauncherOne. Stratolaunch will pay $17 million according to the court statements.
And the company’s primary launch site and home to Cosmic Girl at the Mojave Air and Space Port will be acquired by rocket engine and spacecraft startup Launcher Inc. Earlier this year, Launcher Inc. was acquired by Vast Space, a space station firm.
All the sales will be confirmed by the bankruptcy court on May 24.
On May 23, Virgin Orbit released a statement.
“Throughout its history, Virgin Orbit has been at the forefront of innovation and has made substantial contributions to the field of commercial rocket launch with its LauncherOne air launch platform.
“The company’s cutting-edge technology, unmatched expertise, and commitment to excellence have propelled it to the vanguard of an emerging commercial launch industry.”
It added: “As Virgin Orbit embarks on this path, the management and employees would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to all stakeholders, including customers, partners, investors, and employees, for their support and dedication over the years.
“It is through their collective efforts that the Company has been able to achieve significant milestones and make lasting contributions to the advancement of satellite launch in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Virgin Orbit, founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2017, laid off 85 percent of its employees in March 2023, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April after failing to secure long-term funding after a failed launch from the United Kingdom in January. Most of the 100 or so employees who remained at the company after the March layoffs will be laid off within the next week or so.
On May 8, 2023, Virgin Orbit released a statement that said the company had received letters of interest from more than 30 organizations including several who proposed maintaining and operating the business intact.
At the time, company CEO Dan Hart said: “I’m pleased with the number and quality of the indications of interest we’ve received, which we believe reflects the innovative ideas and hard work the team has put into the development of this unique system. I look forward to continuing to work with those who have expressed interest and other parties as we approach the final bid deadline.”
However, the at the May 23 auction, the company decided “not to continue the auction” regarding the current inventory of LauncherOne rockets.
The court filing stated, “No Successful Bidder or Next-Highest Bidder has been selected for such Assets at this time.” A company spokesperson said discussions on what to do with the rocket engines are ongoing.
Following the days court proceedings, a Virgin Orbit said, “The combined total proceeds were determined by a rigorous and competitive auction which maximizes value for the estate and minimizes the remaining duration of the company’s restructuring. Virgin Orbit’s legacy in the space industry will forever be remembered.”