Space race over for Sir Richard Branson after major Virgin Orbit mission fail

The space race is over for Sir RIchard Branson after a major mission failure has forced his company Virgin Orbit out of business

The Brit billionaire will leave the intergalactic battle to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos after the converted Boeing 747 jet Cosmic Girl – from which he launched satellites – was sold.

Together with leases on the company's HQ it raised £29million – just a fraction of the £3billion the firm was valued at two years ago.

READ MORE: Billionaire Richard Branson slides down Rich List after 'fearing he would lose it'

Virgin Orbit flopped after its first ever satellite mission in the UK in January reached space but fell short of its target orbit. It had been billed as a milestone for British space exploration.

The launch – called Start Me Up after the 1981 Rolling Stones hit – was expected to turn the nation into a global player from manufacturing satellites to building rockets and creating new spaceports.

But the rocket experienced an anomaly which “prematurely ended” the first burn and left Sir Richard's space dream in tatters.

Two months later Virgin Orbit said it was pausing operations to try and find new funding.

Nearly all employees were laid off.

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Last month – when it became clear Virgin Orbit was unable to secure long-term finance – it filed for bankruptcy protection in the US.

Rival start-up Rocket Lab has bought most of its headquarters in California, US, as well as other assets.

Virgin Orbit, which was founded in 2017, never made a profit as a public company.

It completes a tumultuous spell for Sir Richard, 72.

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Earlier this month he revealed he had personally lost £1.5bn during the pandemic after lockdowns hit his airline and leisure businesses.

"There was a time when I thought we were going to lose everything,'' said.

But he has managed to retain his billionaire status.

According to 2023’s Sunday Times Rich List Sir Richard, who started his Virgin Records label in 1972, has a net worth of £2.4bn.

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