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Branson’s Virgin Orbit to return small team from near-total furlough



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, prior to its takeoff on a key drop test of its high-altitude launch system for satellites from Mojave, California, U.S. July 10, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit plans to return on Thursday a small group of employees from a near company-wide furlough to work on rocket upgrades, three people familiar with the matter said, with the company confirming it had recalled some team members.

The number of employees due to return to work at the cash-strapped company was not immediately clear.

The furlough of nearly all of Virgin Orbit’s some 750 employees began on March 16, after the company struggled in recent months to raise funds and suffered a high-profile rocket failure in January.

The move, in which only employees critical to company functions would remain, was intended to buy Virgin Orbit more time to finalize an investment plan and stave off bankruptcy.

Virgin Orbit chief executive Dan Hart announced the return of some staff from furlough in an email to employees on Tuesday night, said the three people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal company matters.

Discussions over Virgin Orbit’s investment plan to stave off bankruptcy were ongoing, one of the sources said.

Virgin Orbit said in a statement that it was targeting an “incremental resumption” of operations to support its next launch.

“Our first step will begin Thursday of this week, when we plan to return a subset of our team to focus on critical areas for our next mission,” the company said.

Virgin Orbit shares fell to a fresh record low close of $0.44 on Tuesday.

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