NTSB Lays Out Its Proposal For Investigating Commercial Space Crashes


Yesterday (Nov. 16), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) addressed the prospect of future commercial space accident investigations with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in the Federal Register. The NPRM is meant to solicit comments on the proposal from regulators, stakeholders and the general public “to add language on procedures for commercial space investigations in the Code of Federal Regulations.”

Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said, “When the NTSB conducted its first commercial space investigation in the early 1990s, that sector was in its infancy. As commercial space operations have expanded exponentially since then, it’s become increasingly important that when there is an accident or incident, it’s crystal clear to commercial space operators and industry stakeholders what procedures are in place to ensure the integrity of our safety investigation.”

The NTSB proposes adding Subpart F to Part 831 to clarify “the processes that will be followed by all parties in an NTSB-led commercial space investigation.”

The NPRM touches on the board’s history in leading and supporting investigations involving commercial and noncommercial space-launch and re-entry investigations, including the fatal in-flight breakup of SpaceShipTwo in Mojave, California, in 2014.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Space flight is an inherently dangerous stunt, so I don’t see why the FAA wants to be involved at all. It’s as if they wanted to get involved in stunts like bungie jumping.

    No matter what is done, space flight will always be high risk.

    The only constructive thing I can say is maybe space tourism should be limited to be an airplane flight, which can be regulated and investigated in a meaningful way. You can still do brief zero-g flights, but no rockets.