Virgin Galactic, a space travel company founded by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group, said a piece fell off its spaceship during the most recent flight test.
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The company performed a post-flight review on its ‘Galactic 06’ mission and realized that an alignment pin detached from the launch pylon of its mothership, VMS Eve. The pin keeps the spaceship aligned with the mothership, which carries it to a launch altitude. Virgin Galactic said the relatively small piece helps transfer drag and other forces from the spaceship to the shear pin fitting assembly.
Virgin Galactic claimed its latest mission was safe and successful, and that the detached alignment pin never posed a safety impact to the vehicles or the crew on board. The company said it conducts test flights in restricted airspace and at specific launch locations to minimize hazards to people or structures on the ground.
Still, the company reported the incident to the Federal Aviation Administration last month and is currently conducting a coordinated review with the FAA.
Virgin Galactic promised to provide further updates as the investigation progresses. The company is still looking at a flight window for the ‘Galactic 07’ mission some time during the second quarter of 2024.