Virgin Orbit may have found a buyer for some of its assets in hypersonic flight company Stratolaunch, according to new court filings.
Stratolaunch submitted a $17 million bid for some assets, including the modified Boeing 747 aircraft “Cosmic Girl,” in a so-called stalking horse bid. Stalking horse bids set the minimum floor price for the assets. The two companies entered the stalking horse agreement on May 16.
Virgin Orbit developed a system to send small payloads to orbit that uses Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne, a rocket that is affixed to its wing at takeoff. Once the aircraft reaches an altitude of around 35,000 feet, Cosmic Girl releases the rocket, which continues to space. The company reportedly spent around $1 billion developing this launch system.
Virgin Orbit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on April 4 after failing to secure funding to continue operations. A firm representing Virgin contacted 204 potential bidders during the course of the sale process, the court documents say. The company received over 30 indications of interest as of May 8.
“[Virgin Orbit believes] there is considerable interest in the remaining assets, and therefore believe that designation of the Stalking Horse Bid will lock in a floor price for [the] aircraft but allow them to continue to maximize value through one or more bids for other discrete assets or with a superior going concern bid,” Virgin lawyers told the court.
Stratolaunch’s bid does not stop alternate bidders from submitting bids for all or some of the assets. The deadline to submit bids is 12:00 p.m. EDT on May 19, and an auction is currently scheduled for May 22.
Stratolaunch was founded in 2011 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The company was originally also targeting midair rocket launches but has since pivoted to hypersonic testing. Stratolaunch has developed Roc, the world’s largest aircraft, and a small, reusable vehicle called Talon-A. After the vehicle detaches midair from Roc, Stratolaunch says it could be used as a hypersonic test bed.