Virgin Orbit Is Planning to Launch Into Space Despite Declaring Bankruptcy

When you hear that a company has filed for bankruptcy, you may think the story ends there. But with Virgin Orbit, it’s not so cut and dry.

After the rocket company laid off 85 percent of its staff last month and then declared bankruptcy shortly thereafter, it’s still not the end of the road, according to a new Washington Post interview with Virgin Orbit’s CEO. Dan Hart told the newspaper that the company has been in talks with potential buyers, and that it’s still moving forward with a launch later this year.

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For his part, Hart took responsibility for Virgin Orbit’s challenges, saying that the company went through hundreds of millions of dollars while only carrying out a few successful launches.

“At the end of the day, as a CEO, those are my choices, and I think about this a lot. I could have made different choices along the way,” Hart said. “I mean, innovation is a messy business, and you make choices and you walk out in the parking lot each day. And you wonder, did I move the ball forward? Or do we go backward today?”

Now, with just 100 employees, Virgin Orbit is in talks with potential buyers to save the company. Hart wouldn’t say how confident he was that someone would swoop in, but Caleb Henry, the director of research at the advisory firm Quilty Analytics, told the Post that there’s a good chance someone will buy Virgin Orbit “if the price is right.” (Bids are due May 14.)

Despite the company being in a state of flux, Hart said that it’s planning to launch its next rocket in the third quarter of this year. It will carry a commercial satellite for a paying customer, although the CEO wouldn’t share who that is.

In a previous launch attempt in January, Virgin Orbit’s rocket failed, thanks to a filter that came loose during the second stage. That mishap helped contribute to some of the company’s woes, and perhaps foreshadowed the layoffs and eventual bankruptcy filing. Hart must be hoping, then, that the launch happening later this year goes off without a hitch.

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