Virgin Orbit has begun drawing up detailed contingency plans for insolvency days after it ceased operations and evacuated its workforce.

Sky News has learned that the commercial space satellite project was founded by him Sir Richard BransonVirgin Group is working with Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) and Ducera, two restructuring companies, on backup plans in case it can’t secure new funding.

The decision to form the advisors underscores Virgin Orbit’s financially risky nature, even as it remains in talks with a small number of potential investors about providing enough funding to resume operations.

Virgin Orbit is 75% owned by Sir Richard Holdings, and its shares are listed on NASDAQ in New York.

Its value fell further after the failure of its inaugural British mission to Cornwall in January.

After going public in 2021 by merging with a SPCA in a $3.7bn (£1bn) deal, its listed shares are now valued at just $217m (£177m).

Insolvency planning work involving A&M and Ducera was running out of the US, sources said.

A&M has also been working on plans to run Virgin Atlantic Airlines as it races to recapitalize itself during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was not clear Sunday evening the identities of the parties interested in financing Virgin Orbit on an ongoing basis, although one of the sources said that Boeing, which previously invested in the company, is not in talks with it.

They added that it was understood that Virgin Orbit aimed to secure additional capital during this week.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart hopes to launch another mission in the coming weeks, but that possibility is remote unless the company can secure fresh capital.

A Virgin Orbit spokesperson said last week: “Virgin Orbit is commencing a company-wide operational shutdown, from 16 March 2023, and expects to provide an update on ongoing operations in the coming weeks.

“On the operations side, our investigation and our next production rocket are almost complete with the required modification built into the final stages of integration and testing.”

Read more:
Virgin Orbit is ceasing operations as nearly all employees prepare to be furloughed
The first satellite mission from the UK failed to reach orbit due to a faulty rocket fuel
Can the UK remain a superpower in space?

Sources close to the Virgin Group said Sir Richard’s private empire has backed Virgin Orbit with over $1bn (£818bn), including $60m (£49m) since November 2022.

“Space is expensive and this significant funding was not enough to counteract the strong headwinds and liquidity crunch Virgin Orbit continues to face,” said an insider.

“We are confident that Virgin Orbit is taking this decisive action to protect employees and company assets while it continues to evaluate alternative options.”

Virgin Orbit was founded in 2017, with a focus on operational launches of small commercial satellites from a modified Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft.

The company has conducted four successful missions, launching 33 satellites into the required orbit, according to a spokesperson.

Taking Virgin Orbit public at a multi-billion dollar valuation was seen as a vindication of Sir Richard’s efforts to build a profitable business empire in the space technology sector.

In 2019, he merged Virgin Galactic, his space tourism operation, with Social Capital Hedosophia, another SPAC, in a deal that heralded the continuing flood of so-called ‘blank check’ companies.

Virgin Orbit spun off Virgin Galactic and was run for years by Mr. Hart, a former Boeing executive.

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