An updated image of a Virgin Orbit's Launcher One rocket. Virgin Orbit said it will bring back a small group of workers on Thursday after furloughing its entire staff earlier this month. File Photo courtesy of Greg Robinson/Virgin Orbit
March 22 (UPI) -- Virgin Orbit, Richard Branson's satellite launcher service, is expected to return a small staff work on Thursday after suspending operations last week and putting its employees on unpaid furlough.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, Virgin Orbit Holdings said it would begin an "incremental resumption of its operations" that would include working on its next launch.
"Our first step will begin Thursday this week, when we plan to return a subset of our team to focus on critical areas of our next mission," CEO Dan Hart said. "We are looking forward to getting back to our mission and returning to orbit.
Hart added, however, that the company would extend its unpaid furlough and continue to pause operations for most of its 750 employees "through at least Monday," according to an email to employees reported by CNBC.
Hart said there was still a need "to conserve cash" as the company continues to work on moving forward.
"We've made some important progress this week, but there is still work to be done," Hart wrote.
The company has been reeling since its failure to deliver into orbit the first-ever satellite launched from British soil on Jan. 9.
The failed launch from Spaceport Cornwall based at Newquay Airport spoiled hopes that the country could become a global competitor in the lucrative satellite launch industry, which is currently dominated by private U.S. space companies.
"Any viable path for our operations will require us to successfully launch," Hart said.
The return appeared to be good news for its stocks, with Virgin Orbit shares jumping as much as 155% in premarket trading on Wednesday. The stock had lost 76% in 2023 so far, closing at 44 cents on Tuesday.