Virgin Orbit is burning less money, although it won’t be launching quite as many rockets as originally hoped.
Losses for the company’s second quarter of 2022 were $33.3m, down from $44.6m for the same period last year, but revenues stood at zero, down from $1.7m for the second quarter of 2021.
The company was quick to point out that revenues would jump for the third quarter as it recognized more than $12m in revenue following its fourth consecutive successful launch.
After the failure of its first orbital launch attempt in May 2020, Virgin Orbit managed two successful flights of its LauncherOne rocket in 2021, and another two so far this year. There were mutterings earlier in 2022 that the company might manage six flights in 2022, but during last week’s earnings call, CEO Dan Hart said Virgin Orbit was “on track to have delivered four total by the end of the year.”
The next launch will start from Spaceport Cornwall, where the company’s Boeing 747 will depart ahead of dropping the LauncherOne rocket for a first orbital jaunt from UK soil (or the airspace nearby).
The $12m figure is a reflection of both higher-value spacecraft being launched and efficiencies in the company’s processes. “On our most recent mission,” said Hart, “manufacturing labor hours were reduced by approximately 25 percent compared to the previous rocket.”
“Looking ahead, we continue to implement affordability measures to drive greater efficiency.”
As well as the UK, the company has also established a Brazilian presence and received a launch operator’s license. The company has also buddied up with J-Space for sovereign air-launch capability in South Korea.
“We expect the UK experience will be an applicable blueprint to share with other allied nations,” said Hart, “and will help expedite international launch as we continue to work with global leaders to support civil space, national security and their local space economies.”
British regulators are hard at work on a new licensing regime with both space port and launcher operators. “It’s not like with the FAA where they’re used to licensing,” remarked Hart. “It’s a new process and it takes a bit of time to go through it.”
Once the Cornwall launch is out of the way (possibly in September or October), one more is expected this year from the company’s Mojave base. ®