- Virgin Orbit stock fell in trading on Monday evening, after the company confirmed that its first launch out of the United Kingdom failed to reach orbit.
- The company uses a modified 747 jet to send satellites into space, by releasing a rocket from under the aircraft's wing mid-flight.
- This was Virgin Orbit's sixth mission to date, and its second launch failure.
Virgin Orbit shares fell after the company confirmed Monday that its first launch out of the United Kingdom failed to reach orbit.
Shares of Virgin Orbit dropped as much as 20% in early trading Tuesday, before regaining some of its losses to close down 14% at $1.66 a share. The stock has fallen steadily since going public via a SPAC at near $10 a share.
The company uses a modified 747 jet to send satellites into space, by dropping a rocket from under the aircraft's wing mid-flight – a method known as air launch.
Virgin Orbit's webcast showed its LauncherOne rocket released and fired its engine, with the company saying in a tweet that the rocket "successfully reached Earth orbit." But about half an hour later, the company announced the launch had "an anomaly" and that the nine satellites onboard would not reach orbit.
Virgin Orbit is reviewing the launch data to identify the source of the failure, and acknowledged that it deleted the tweet about reaching orbit. The 747 jet and its crew safely returned and landed at Spaceport Cornwall in southwest England.
In a statement early Tuesday, the company said the failure happened "at some point during the firing of the rocket's second stage engine and with the rocket travelling at a speed of more than 11,000 miles per hour."
"While we are very proud of the many things that we successfully achieved as part of this mission, we are mindful that we failed to provide our customers with the launch service they deserve," Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said.
The launch involved a number of government partners and regulators, including the U.K.'s space agency and air force, as well as the U.S.' FAA and NRO.
Monday's mission was Virgin Orbit's sixth to date, and its second launch failure.
The company conducted just two launches in 2022, short of the forecast for four to six missions that Virgin Orbit gave at the beginning of last year. At the end of the third quarter, Virgin Orbit had $71.2 million in cash on hand, and raised an additional $25 million from Richard Branson's Virgin Group, an existing major shareholder, in the middle of the fourth quarter.