Once-successful Virgin Orbit has been sold for parts at auction after the company declared bankruptcy in April. In a $16.1 million deal, Rocket Lab USA, a small satellite launch provider and aerospace manufacturer, bought Virgin Orbit's 144,000 square foot Long Beach headquarters and a variety of on-site machinery and equipment.
Rocket Lab USA is currently developing Neutron, a larger launch vehicle, from its headquarters, conveniently also located in Long Beach. In a statement about the purchase, Peter Beck, Rocket Lab's CEO and founder, said adding Virgin Orbit's lease "provides co-located engineering, manufacturing and test capabilities for our Neutron team."
The now-defunct Virgin Orbit started in 2017 as an off-shoot of Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson's space tourism venture. Its goal was to use a modified Boeing 747 aircraft, known as Cosmic Girl, to deploy small satellites into low Earth orbit, but only four of its six flights since its first in 2020 have been successful. The company attempted to save money through methods like going public in 2021 and, most recently, furloughing its 750 or so employees. However, they weren't enough, and the company reported a $191.2 million net loss for 2022. In April, Virgin Orbit officially declared bankruptcy and laid off most of its employees.
In total, Virgin Orbit has earned just over $36 million from bankruptcy sales, CNBC reported. Cosmic Girl sold for $17 million to Stratolaunch, creator of the world's largest plane. A small satellite transport business, Launcher, paid an additional $2.7 million for Virgin Orbit's launch site in the Mojave Desert — about a six-hour drive from their south Los Angeles headquarters. Launcher is owned by Vast, a company attempting to launch the first private space station.