Virgin Orbit stock plummets after failed UK launch

Cosmic Girl, a Virgin Boeing 747-400 aircraft sits on the tarmac with Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket strapped to the wing, ahead of the first UK launch tonight, at Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay Airport in Newquay, Great Britain Brittany, January 9, 2023.

Henry Nicholls | Reuters

pristine orbit Shares fell in trading late on Monday after the company confirmed its first launch from the UK had failed to reach orbit.

Virgin Orbit shares fell 30% in after-hours trading from its previous close of $1.93 per share.

The company uses a modified 747 jet to send satellites into space, launching a rocket under the plane’s wing in midair – a method known as air launch.

Virgin Orbit’s webcast showed its LauncherOne rocket had launched and fired its engine, with the company saying in a tweet that the rocket “successfully reached Earth orbit”. But about half an hour later, the company announced that the launch had “an anomaly” and that the nine satellites on board would not reach orbit.

Virgin Orbit is reviewing launch data to identify the source of the failure and has acknowledged deleting the tweet about reaching orbit. The 747 jet and its crew returned and landed safely at Spaceport Cornwall in South West England.

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Monday’s mission was Virgin Orbit’s sixth to date and its second launch failure.

The company has only completed two launches in 2022, short of the forecast of four to six missions that Virgin Orbit gave early last year. At the end of the third quarter, Virgin Orbit had $71.2 million in cash and had raised another $25 million from the Virgin Group of existing major shareholder Richard Branson by mid-fourth quarter.

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