Virgin Orbit stock falls after UK failure

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Cosmic Girl, a Virgin Boeing 747-400 aircraft sits on the tarmac with a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket attached to the wing, ahead of its UK debut tonight, at Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay Airport in Newquay, Britain, January 9 2023.

Henry Nicholls | Reuters

Virgo Orbit stock fell in Monday night trading, after the company confirmed that the first launch out of the United Kingdom did not reach orbit.

Shares of Virgin Orbit 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 dropping a rocket under the plane’s center wing – a method known as air launch.

Virgin Orbit’s webcast showed its LauncherOne rocket releasing and firing 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 there was an “irregularity” at the launch and that the nine satellites on board would not reach orbit.

Virgin Orbit is reviewing the launch data to determine the origin of the failure, and has admitted that it deleted the tweet about reaching orbit. The 747 aircraft and its crew returned safely and landed at Spaceport Cornwall in south-west England.

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Monday’s mission was Virgin Orbit’s sixth to date, and the second failed launch.

The company made just two launches in 2022, short of the forecast for four to six missions given by Virgin Orbit at the beginning of last year. At the end of the third quarter, Virgin Orbit had $71.2 million in cash on hand, and it raised an additional $25 million from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, an existing major shareholder, in the middle of the quarter season

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