Virgin Orbit to close after $36.4 million asset sale

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Virgin Orbit to close after $36.4 million asset sale

WASHINGTON Richard Branson'sBranson's satellite launch company, Virgin Orbit, announced on Tuesday that it would be closing for good after a $36.4 million asset sale, including an agreement to sell the bulk of its Long Beach, California headquarters to a small-launch firm Rocket Lab USA Inc.

Rocket Lab, a renowned small-rocket company whose headquarters is less than a mile from Virgin Orbits, won the bankrupt rocket company's primary manufacturing site for $16 million during an auction held on Monday, according to a court filing revealing the results of a weeks-long chapter 11 bid process.

The deal includes materials and equipment used to make Virgin Orbit's flagship LauncherOne rockets, which were launched from the belly of a modified Boeing 747. The court's decision is subject to the court's approval during a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

Virgin Orbit said in a statement that it will sell its assets to four winning bidders and discontinue operations.

The combined total proceeds were determined by a rigorous and competitive auction, which maximizes value for the estate and minimizes the remaining duration of the company's restructuring, the statement said. The legacy of Virgin Orbit will always be remembered for its impact on space. Virgin Orbit, founded by the billionaire Branson to send small satellites into space, laid off 85 percent of its 750 employees in March and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early April, following a failed launch from Britain in January.

Most of the company's employees will be laid off within the next week, a person familiar with the company's final plans said.

Virgin Orbit will also sell its aircraft assets, including the aircraft version of the Boeing 747 Cosmic Girl carrier, to hypersonics firm Stratolaunch for $17 million, the filing said. In May, Stratolaunch had been a designated stalking horse bidder for those assets.

The primary launch site of Virgin Orbit will be sold to rocket engine and spacecraft startup Launcher Inc., a space station firm backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Jed McCaleb, who acquired Launcher earlier this year.

Virgin Orbit said this month that it had received more than 30 letters of interest from potential bidders for its assets, a higher amount than the company expected.

Tuesday's filing also said Virgin Orbit had decided not to continue the auction regarding the company's Inventory of LauncherOne rocket engines, the core of its launch business.

No Successful Bidder or Next-Highest Bidder has been selected for such assets at this time, the filing said. The discussions on what to do with the rocket engines are ongoing, a spokeswoman said.