The sinking of Virgin Orbit – founded by British billionaire Richard Branson – has repercussions as far away as Quebec. NorthStar Sky
Based in Montreal, the start-up – which counts Investissement Québec among its investors – had reached an agreement with the multinational last fall. The Quebec company still hopes to see its satellites in orbit later this year, but it will have to find a new partner.
“It’s not the ideal scenario, but it’s something you can manage,” NorthStar CEO and founder Stewart Bain said in a phone interview with La Presse.
The services offered by NorthStar enable satellite operators to avoid collisions in space. At the beginning of the year, the company had completed a new round of financing – amounting to 47 million.
Virgin Orbit, which designs rockets for launching small satellites, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday in hopes of finding a buyer.
This decision comes a week after the dismissal of 675 employees, or 85% of the workforce of this subsidiary of Richard Branson’s empire. In a chilly financial environment due to fears of recession, Virgin Orbit was unable to replenish its coffers.
Mr. Bain laments the turn of events. This is a “loss to the industry”, he adds. By the time there is a demand to put satellites into orbit, a “launcher” is bankrupt, the businessman points out.
Founded by Richard Branson in 2017, the company had successfully deployed 33 satellites into orbit, according to Hart. However, last January, its 21m rocket dropped from a Boeing 747 off Cornwall, UK, failed to hit its target. This had caused the loss of the nine satellites it was carrying in addition to precipitating the fall of Virgin Orbit.
The NorthStar executive explained that his company had been aware of the financial difficulties at Virgin for “some time”. The company has therefore already started “negotiating with several other candidates”. NorthStar satellites are built by Spire Global in Glasgow, Scotland. So there is no delay to be expected on this side.