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Virgin rocket fizzles out

April 4, 2023

Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company Virgin Orbit has filed for bankruptcy in the US after failing to secure new investment. The satellite launch company had already halted operations and laid-off staff but says it hopes to find a buyer for the business.

In truth, it was always an also-ran contender in the competitive launch business and its chances were snuffed out when a Virgin Orbit rocket failed to complete the first-ever satellite launch from UK soil. As always with a Branson business, the hype massively exceeded the reality and the motto ‘over-promise and under-deliver’ was never more apt.

Let’s hope Virgin Galactic has more luck.

Virgin always talks a good game, but for Branson to ever be bracketed with those titans of commercial space exploitation, Messrs Musk and Bezos, was always more a reflection of the relentless jingoism of the British press than of reality. It’s the same tendency that sees British tennis commentators talk about the Big Four of the modern era. With the greatest of respect to Andy Murray – who never talks of the Big Four himself – when you see 22, 22 & 20 grand slams for the Big Three, it’s a bit of a stretch to throw three into the same bracket.

It would be great for the doubtless talented and dedicated team at Orbit if an investor rides to the rescue. Maybe it will even keep the name and join the other businesses that have managed to prosper when the red sticker is the only Virgin thing about them.

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