Virgin Galactic Flights Grounded as FAA Probes Detached Alignment Pin

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Virgin Galactic's ‘Galactic 06’ flight launched January 26. [Courtesy: Virgin Galactic]

Virgin Galactic's space tourism operations have been halted as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigates a detached alignment pin reported by the company following a recent suborbital mission.

The January 26th "Galactic 06" mission marked Virgin Galactic's 11th spaceflight, featuring four private astronauts aboard the VSS Unity spaceplane.

During a routine post-flight review, Virgin Galactic discovered the alignment pin detachment from the launch pylon of its mothership, VMS Eve, prompting notification to the FAA on January 31st.

While assuring the mission's safety, Virgin Galactic emphasized that the detached pin posed no safety risk to the vehicles or crew during flight. The alignment pin's role is crucial for maintaining alignment between the mothership and the spaceship before launch.

Virgin Galactic clarified that the alignment pin detachment occurred after the spaceship's release from the mothership and that both parts performed as designed during the mated portion of the flight.

FAA confirmed its investigation, stating no public injuries or damage were reported from the incident involving eight individuals on the suborbital mission.

The investigation aims to determine the root cause of the event and necessary actions to prevent its recurrence. Virgin Galactic must await FAA approval for its final report and corrective actions before resuming flights.

Virgin Galactic plans to update following the review completion, with the flight window for the upcoming "Galactic 07" mission slated for the second quarter of this year pending confirmation.

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