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 attached to the wing, ahead of tonight’s UK launch at Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay Airport in Newquay, UK, on January 9, 2023.

Henry Nicholls | Reuters

Virgo Orbit Shares fell in trading Monday night after the company confirmed its first launch from the UK failed to make orbit.

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

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

Virgin Orbit’s webcast showed the LauncherOne rocket being released and its engine fired, 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 the launch dates to identify the source of the error and confirms that it deleted the tweet about reaching orbit. The 747 jet 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 its second false launch.

The company made just two launches in 2022, missing the forecast of four to six missions made by Virgin Orbit early last year. At the end of the third quarter, Virgin Orbit had $71.2 million in cash and, midway through the fourth quarter, received an additional $25 million from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, an existing major shareholder.

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