Virgin Galactic grounds flights after part detaches during space tourism voyage. Read about the setback in our latest article.
Virgin Galactic, the space tourism venture founded by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, encountered a setback during its most recent spaceflight as a critical part detached, forcing the company to ground its rocket. The incident occurred during the Galactic 06 flight on January 26, 2024, when an alignment pin, utilized to secure the connection between the “mothership” VMS Eve and the rocket-carrying tourists, became detached.
Eight individuals, including four pilots and four paying customers, were on board during the flight, which offered a glimpse of outer space for those willing to pay roughly $450,000 per ticket. Fortunately, despite the detached pin, there were no reported injuries or damages, and all passengers safely returned to the Virgin Galactic launch pad in New Mexico.
According to the company, the alignment pin is crucial for ensuring the proper alignment between the spacecraft components during pre-flight procedures on the ground and helps manage forces during the ascent. Although the detachment did not impact the safety of the craft or passengers, it prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to investigate the incident, leading to the grounding of Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft.
While the company awaits FAA approval for corrective measures, it remains committed to resuming its space tourism operations, with plans for a seventh voyage in the second quarter of 2024. This setback comes after Virgin Galactic celebrated its first successful commercial spaceflight in August 2023, nearly two decades after its inception in 2004.
Despite the setback, Virgin Galactic remains determined to overcome challenges in its mission to offer commercial space travel experiences. As the space tourism industry continues to evolve, incidents like this highlight the complexities and risks associated with venturing beyond Earth’s atmosphere.