NTSB To Codify Spacecraft Mishap Investigative Steps

 - November 19, 2021, 9:47 AM

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is proposing to add a Subpart F (Commercial Space Investigations) to its Part 831 regulations to set this “unique mode of transportation” apart from other modes, such as Subpart B (Aviation Investigations). The agency anticipates that Subpart F will “enhance safety by enabling it to conduct accident/incident investigations, identify necessary corrective actions, and prevent future space transportation mishaps.”

Under its current regulations, the Safety Board has actually been involved in spacecraft investigations for more than 20 years, including the 2014 SpaceShip Two in-flight breakup. “When the NTSB conducted its first commercial space investigation in the early 1990s, that sector was in its infancy,” said NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy. “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.”

Included in the proposed Subpart F are the requirements for notifying the NTSB following a spacecraft accident or incident, preservation of wreckage and records, relationships with other federal agencies, and the treatment of investigative information. Comments on the proposal are due January 18.