Richard Branson’s satellite launch firm Virgin Orbit has paused operations, the company said, amid reports that it is working to secure additional funding.
The news comes after the company, which is based in California, failed in its first ever satellite mission from UK soil in January.
In a statement, the company said: “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.”
The changes were announced on Wednesday but the company did not confirm reports that staff have been furloughed while it searches for a funding lifeline.
Virgin Orbit had been set to launch nine small satellites out of Spaceport Cornwall, in Newquay, but its LauncherOne rocket suffered an error during flight and never reached 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.
A spokesperson said on Thursday: “On the ops side, our investigation is nearly complete and our next production rocket with the needed modification incorporated is in final stages of integration and test.”
Councillor Louis Gardner, of Cornwall Council, who is in charge of the county’s economy, 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.
“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.”
Published: 16/03/2023 by Radio NewsHub