Virgin Orbit, the Virgin Galactic spin-off couldn’t secure the funding it needed to continue operating. The company founded by Richard Branson in 2017 aimed to give a chance for non-astronauts to visit the outer limits of our planet. It’s a dream that will not come true as the company has now ceased its operations, laying off about 750 employees.

It was a dream with big potential for the AM industry

Two years ago, we went behind the scenes of this satellite launch company to discover the company’s use of Additive Manufacturing to push boundaries of orbital class rockets. Some of the milestones of this journey included a partnership with NASA to create a 3D printed combustion chamber that combines multiple materials or even the development, testing of its LauncherOne smallsat rocket, an air launch to orbit rocket, designed to take smallsat payloads of 300 kilograms (660 lb) and more into orbit.

The company’s failed launch attempt last January led it to a series of unfortunate events. The rocket should have taken off from Spaceport Cornwall and become a historic first attempt to launch satellites from British soil. However, due to an issue, the company couldn’t go to the end of his efforts.

While the leading team remained optimistic regarding the possibility to achieve a space launch from UK soil, their optimism was not enough to secure long-term funding needed to help it recover from its rocket failure. And here we are today.

Should we worry for space companies leveraging AM technologies?

The question is tough but worth discussing. This event occurs after a milestone achieved by Relativity Space whose 3D printed Terran 1 rocket finally blasted off but failed to reach orbit. Among other companies that we will keep on our radar, there are  ABL Space Systems, and Astra as they rely on AM technologies to deliver their rockets to orbit.

Flying rockets is an extremely risky and difficult business and despite all potential for the industry, a tightened investment environment makes failure a big part of the journey

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