In mid-March, Virgin Orbit went into an "operational pause" and put most of its 750 employees in an unpaid leave due to financial issues. Reports have come out that the satellite launch company was in talks with potential new investors since then, but it sounds like it has yet to clinch a deal that would fund its operations going forward. According to CNBC and Reuters, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart has told employees via email that the company will extend unpaid furlough for majority of its workforce.
"Our investment discussions have been very dynamic over the past few days, they are ongoing, and not yet at a stage where we can provide a fulsome update," he reportedly wrote. Sources told the news organizations that Virgin Orbit's late-stage discussions with Texas-based investor Matthew Brown broke down and was officially called off late last week.
Brown was going to put in $200 million into the company, which would've given the investor a controlling stake. Talks with a different potential buyer, CNBC said, also came to a halt on Sunday night. CNBC's Investing in Space newsletter recently reported that Sir Richard Branson, which currently has the largest stake in the company at 75 percent, doesn't want to own the business anymore even through the bankruptcy process. Branson's Virgin Group was apparently rushing to find a debtor-in-possession loan, but discussions with bankruptcy firms also fizzled out.
A small team of Virgin Orbit employees already returned to work last week as part of its expected "incremental resumption of operations." While the company's future remains unclear, it has to start preparing for its next planned rocket launches. One of the missions it's aiming to accomplish this year is its second orbital launch attempt from UK soil. If you'll recall, what was supposed to be Virgin Orbit's first orbital UK launch took off from Spaceport Cornwall on January 9th, but it failed to reach orbit due to a dislodged fuel filter.