Virgin Orbit’s stock plummets after company announces ‘operational pause’

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Virgin Orbit’s stock plunged 31.5% Thursday after the satellite-launch company announced an “operational pause.”

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc.

announced the operational pause beginning Thursday “in order to conserve capital while the company conducts discussions with potential funding sources and explores strategic opportunities.” The company added that there can be no assurance that these discussions will result in any transaction and that it expects the operational pause to continue through March 21.

“Virgin Orbit is initiating a company-wide operational pause, effective March 16, 2023, and anticipates providing an update on go-forward operations in the coming weeks,” a Virgin Orbit spokesperson said in a statement emailed to MarketWatch Thursday.

Founded by Richard Branson in 2017, Virgin Orbit began commercial service in 2021. The company is based in Long Beach, Calif.

Related: Virgin Orbit’s stock plunges after failed attempt to reach orbit from the U.K.

Unlike the vertical launches employed by the likes of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Virgin Orbit uses a horizontal launch in which a modified Boeing 747 aircraft carries the company’s air-launched LauncherOne rocket on its wing.

In January, Virgin Orbit attempted to make history with the first orbital space launch from British soil, but its rocket carrying nine satellites suffered an “anomaly” and failed to reach orbit.

The mission, dubbed Start Me Up, was the fifth consecutive Virgin Orbit launch to carry payloads for private companies and government agencies. The company has opened an investigation into the failed mission.

“On the ops side our investigation is nearly complete and our next production rocket with the needed modification incorporated is in final stages of integration and test,” the spokesperson told MarketWatch.

Related: Virgin Orbit probes failed orbital launch, eyes second U.K. attempt later this year

Since starting operations in 2021, Virgin Orbit has launched more than 30 government and private-sector satellites.

Virgin Orbit’s stock has fallen 62.6% so far in 2023, compared with the S&P 500’s

gain of 3.2%.

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