UNITED STATES: In a bid to acquire Virgin Orbit’s aircraft assets, hypersonic vehicle company Stratolaunch has submitted an offer of $17 million, according to court filings released on Tuesday.
Virgin Orbit filed for bankruptcy in April due to a lack of long-term funding, and Stratolaunch, known for building the world’s largest aeroplane called Roc, has entered into a “stalking horse bid” agreement.
This agreement allows competing offers from other interested parties while establishing a minimum asset price.
Stratolaunch’s bid specifically targets Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft, Cosmic Girl, and the necessary assets required for its operation.
Cosmic Girl is renowned for carrying Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket to an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet (10,700 metres) before releasing it, allowing it to ignite its onboard motor and reach space.
Virgin Orbit engaged in extensive negotiations with Stratolaunch over several weeks to finalise the terms of the agreement, resulting in the $17 million cash bid.
Although Stratolaunch has not publicly announced its bid, it will immediately deposit the amount in escrow if the deal is approved.
The failure of Virgin Orbit’s January 2023 mission, which resulted in the loss of nine customer satellites, likely influenced the bankruptcy filing.
The investigation into the failure identified a dislodged fuel filter within LauncherOne as the cause, and the company subsequently made modifications for future launches.
After failing to secure long-term financing, Virgin Orbit furloughed all but 100 employees and filed for bankruptcy in early April.
However, more than 30 parties have expressed interest in continuing the company’s operations and retaining the remaining staff.
The deadline for final bids in the sale of Virgin Orbit’s assets is Friday, May 19, with a bankruptcy auction scheduled for May 22 if multiple companies are bidding.
The final hearing on the sale will take place in Delaware Court, where the bankruptcy was initially filed, on May 24.
Virgin Orbit’s CEO, Dan Hart, expressed satisfaction with the level of interest received and attributed it to the team’s hard work and innovative ideas.
Hart had previously mentioned the potential of LauncherOne to serve as a boost stage for hypersonic vehicles like those developed by Stratolaunch.
Stratolaunch recently conducted a successful drop test with its Roc plane and aims to perform a hypersonic test later this year.
As the bankruptcy proceedings continue, the future of Virgin Orbit’s assets remains uncertain. The bids from Stratolaunch and potential competitors will determine the outcome, potentially shaping the landscape of the aerospace industry.
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