Virgin Orbit auctions off $36m in remaining assets as company folds

Virgin Orbit auctions off m in remaining assets as company folds

WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) – Richard Branson’s bankrupt satellite launch company Virgin Orbit revealed on Tuesday that it was closing for good after a $36.4 million sale of assets, including a agreement to sell most of its Long Beach, Calif., headquarters to small launch company Rocket Lab USA Inc. (RKLB.O)

Rocket Lab, the veteran small-rocket company headquartered less than a mile from Virgin Orbit, has won the bankrupt rocket company’s main manufacturing site for $16 million in an auction held Monday, according to a court filing disclosing the results of a week-long Chapter 11 bidding process.

The purchase deal includes machinery and equipment that had been used to make Virgin Orbit’s flagship LauncherOne rockets, which were launched from the belly of a modified Boeing 747. It is subject to the approval of the bankruptcy court at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

In a statement thanking its employees, investors and other stakeholders, Virgin Orbit said it would sell its assets to a total of four winning bidders and cease operations.

“The total combined proceeds were determined through a rigorous and competitive auction that maximizes the value of the estate and minimizes the remaining time of the company’s restructuring,” the statement said. “Virgin Orbit’s legacy in the space industry will be forever remembered.”

Founded by billionaire Branson to send small satellites into space, Virgin Orbit laid off 85% of its roughly 750 employees in March and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early April after the company had struggled to secure long-term funding following a failed launch from Britain. in January.

Most of the roughly 100 employees who remained with the company during the bankruptcy proceedings will be laid off within the next week, said a person familiar with the company’s final plans.

Virgin Orbit also plans to sell its aviation assets, including the modified Boeing 747 “Cosmic Girl” carrier plane, to hypersonic company Stratolaunch for $17 million, according to the filing. Stratolaunch had been a nominated bidder for those assets earlier in May.

Virgin Orbit’s main launch site in California’s Mojave Desert will be sold to rocket engine and spacecraft startup Launcher Inc. has yet to close.

This month, Virgin Orbit said it received more than 30 letters of interest from potential bidders for its assets, more than the company expected, a person familiar with the process at the time told Reuters. .

Tuesday’s filing says Virgin Orbit has decided “not to proceed with the auction” over inventory from rocket engine company LauncherOne, the core of its launch business.

“No winning bidder or next bidder has been selected for these assets at this time,” the filing said. Discussions about what to do with the rocket engines are ongoing, a spokeswoman said.

Reporting by Joey Roulette Editing by Chris Reese

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