Virgin Orbit shares tumble after failed UK launch

Virgin Orbit shares tumble after failed UK launch

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

Henry Nichols | Reuters

Virgin Orbit shares fell in Monday evening trading after the company confirmed that its first launch from the UK had failed to reach orbit.

Virgin Orbit shares fell as much as 30% in after-hours trading from their previous close of $1.93 a share.

The company uses a modified 747 jet to send satellites into space by releasing a rocket from under the plane’s wing mid-flight — a method known as an air launch.

Virgin Orbit’s webcast showed its LauncherOne rocket being launched and firing its engine, with the company saying in a tweet that the rocket had “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 the launch data to identify the source of the failure and has acknowledged that it deleted the tweet about reaching orbit. The 747 and its crew returned safely and landed at Cornwall Airfield in southwest England.

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Monday’s mission was Virgin Orbit’s sixth ever and the second failed launch.

The company conducted just two launches in 2022, down from 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 cashand raised an additional $25 million from To Richard Branson Virgin Group, an existing major shareholder, in the middle of the fourth quarter.

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