Virgin Orbit, Richard Branson’s rocket company, files for bankruptcy

(CNN) – Virgin Orbit, the rocket company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, has filed for bankruptcy in the United States.

The California-based company said in a statement Monday that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which means it can continue to do business while it restructures its debt.

“While we have made significant efforts to address our financial situation and secure additional financing, we must ultimately do what is best for the business,” Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, said in the statement posted on its website.

Hart said he believes the company’s “advanced launch technology” will have “great appeal to buyers as we continue the process of selling the company.”

Virgin Investments, a sister company to Virgin Orbit, will pour $31.6 million into the satellite launcher to help it stay afloat while the company searches for a new owner.

The announcement comes just days after Virgin Orbit said it would lay off about 85% of its workforce to cut expenses because it is unable to raise additional funds.

The company was founded in 2017 to make a small rocket called LauncherOne that can launch lightweight satellites quickly and cheaply into orbit. Rockets take off from a modified Boeing 747.

It’s one of several companies, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, that have attempted to commercialize satellite launches.

Virgin Orbit ran into trouble in January when one of its rockets failed to reach orbit because its engine overheated. It was the company’s first attempt to launch a satellite from British soil. Completed four previous successful launches from California.

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