Stratolaunch tables $17 million bid for Virgin Orbit's 'Cosmic Girl'

The deal would also include assets related to 'Cosmic Girl,' Virgin Orbit's modified Boeing 747.
Chris Young
Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl.
Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl.

Virgin Orbit 

Stratolaunch, the builder of the world's largest airplane, called Roc, has made a bid of $17 million for the aircraft assets of Virgin Orbit, according to a report from

The bid by the hypersonic vehicle company comes after Virgin Orbit filed for bankruptcy last month, having failed to secure long-term funding.

Stratolaunch bids for 'Cosmic Girl' after Virgin Orbit bankruptcy filing

The bid from Stratolaunch, detailed in court filings published on May 16, is what's known as a "stalking horse bid," referring to an initial bid for a bankrupt company's assets.

With its bid, Stratolaunch is focused on acquiring Virgin Orbit's modified 747-400 Boeing aircraft called Cosmic Girl, as well as assets required to fly and operate the plane.

Cosmic Girl was developed to carry Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket to an altitude of roughly 35,000 feet (10,700 meters), where it would be dropped off shortly before firing its engines and flying into orbit.

Stratolaunch tables $17 million bid for Virgin Orbit's 'Cosmic Girl'
Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl and LauncherOne.

Though LauncherOne recently performed four consecutive successful launches, it recently failed to reach orbit on an attempt that would have gone down as the first-ever rocket launch from the United Kingdom. That mission lifted off in January from Spaceport Cornwall in England, and it was later confirmed that the failure was caused by a dislodged fuel filter.

That launch failure likely played a large part in Virgin Orbit's subsequent problems. The company, which was already operating at a $50.5 million loss, lost nine customer satellites during the mission called "Start Me Up."

Stratolaunch could repurpose Cosmic Girl for hypersonic vehicle tests

Virgin Orbit has since announced it made modifications to Cosmic Girl and that more than 30 parties have shown interest in taking over operations with the staff that are still at the firm.

In a company update earlier this month, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart did say he was "pleased with the number and quality of the indications of interest we’ve received, which we believe reflects the innovative ideas and hard work the team has put into the development of this unique system."

Last year, Hart said that LauncherOne could eventually be used for more than small satellite launches and stated that it could one day be used to launch hypersonic vehicles for research purposes.

Stratolaunch tables $17 million bid for Virgin Orbit's 'Cosmic Girl'
Stratolaunch's recent drop test.

That is likely what Stratolaunch has its eye on. The company's Roc aircraft was originally designed for small satellite launches, and it came close to bankruptcy in 2019. It has since successfully repositioned itself as a hypersonic vehicle launcher for customers, including the Pentagon.

Stratolaunch recently completed the first drop test of its Talon-A hypersonic test vehicle. It expects to conduct a full hypersonic test flight later this year.

The final hearing on Virgin Orbit's bankruptcy, meanwhile, will take place on May 22, so we will soon know more about the fate of the satellite launch firm.

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