Virgin Galactic Reports on Pin Detachment From Recent Spaceflight

An alignment pin detached from the launch pylon of the mothership, VMS Eve, the launch platform for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo flight vehicle, during their most recent space flight. (Image: Virgin Galactic)

During a routine postflight review of its most recent space flight, “Galactic 06,” Virgin Galactic determined that an alignment pin detached from the launch pylon of its mothership or spacecraft launcher, VMS Eve, during flight.

Virgin Galactic completed its 11th space flight, “Galactic 06,” on Jan. 26, 2024, with four astronauts onboard.

The company notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in accordance with regulations and is conducting a review in conjunction with the FAA. At no time did the detached alignment pin pose a safety impact to the vehicles or the crew on board, according to the company.

Virgin Galactic flights occur in restricted airspace and at specific geographical launch locations that control the hazards to people or structures on the ground. There was also no damage observed to the spaceship or the mothership.

The alignment pin helps ensure the spaceship is aligned to the mothership when mating the vehicles on the ground during pre-flight procedures. During mated flight, as the vehicles climb towards release altitude, the alignment pin helps transfer drag and other forces from the spaceship to the shear pin fitting assembly and into the pylon and center wing of the mothership.

The shear pin fitting assembly remained both attached and intact on the mothership with no damage. While both parts play a role during mated flight, they do not support the spaceship’s weight, nor do they have an active function once the spaceship is released. The alignment pin and shear pin fitting assembly performed as designed during the mated portion of the flight, and only the alignment pin detached after the spaceship was released from the mothership.

Virgin Galactic will provide a further update at the completion of the review and will confirm the flight window for the ‘Galactic 07’ mission, which is planned for the second quarter of 2024.