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FAA and NTSB sign deal dividing turf for investigating space accidents

FAA & NTSB agreement

Turf war! The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday signed an agreement that divides up the responsibilities for investigating accidents that occur in or by space entities.

You can read that agreement here [pdf]. A screen capture of the key clauses is to the right. Essentially, the NTSB will lead any investigation that either causes death or injury, or involves damage to property not related to the space operation itself, while the FAA will lead all other investigations.

The agreement also has a lot of clauses describing how the two agencies will work together in dividing up this turf before, during, and after investigations. Above all, the agreement now authorizes both agencies to “conduct its own analysis and determine its respective conclusions and recommendations in accordance with its authorities.”

The agreement stems from an effort by the NTSB to take over all space-related accident investigations it proposed in November 2021 that both the FAA and industry strongly opposed. This agreement however shows that the Biden administration ignored those objections in order to give the NTSB a wider range of power, while also giving bureaucrats in both agencies more power as well. Under this agreement, every space incident is now going to be investigated twice, with both the NTSB and FAA doing their own investigations.

Expect this agreement to be used by the Washington bureaucracy to slow or shut down innovation and new technology. The NTSB is designed to investigate incidents caused in the long established and robust airline industry, not developing cutting-edge experimental work. It will naturally act to discourage such experimental work.

Meanwhile, the FAA will chime in with its own investigation and analysis. The competing results will only cause confusion and disorder, thus further acting to discourage any new and risky innovations.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


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  • Discouraging any new and risky innovations is a feature and not a bug. Can’t have those uppity new companies come in and do it better. (Cough, cough SpaceX)

  • D. Messier

    NTSB investigated the SpaceShipTwo crash. I don’t recall a lot of criticism of their work on that accident. I don’t think it slowed the program down. Virgin Galactic’s progress was slow, but not due to the investigation.

    If FAA had been the lead agency on that fatal accident, it would have been a complete whitewash. The FAA was partly at fault in issuing a waiver on pilot error that allowed powered flights to continue despite a deficient failure analysis. Fifteen months after the waiver was issued, the ship was destroyed due to pilot error.

  • Jeff Wright

    Depot/in-space refueling hazards are probably the focus.

  • Col Beausabre

    Actually NTSB and regulatory agency duplication occurs everywhere. NTSB & FRA for railroad accidents, NTSB and Coast Guard for maritime accidents, NTSB and FHA for highway accidents (in manty cases triple and even quadruple as the state highway department, stare police and local police conduct investigations), NTSB and FBC for bicycle accidents, NTSB and FSA for accidents on sidewalks, NTSB and FSC for accidents on stairs or in stairwells (the FSC also has authority over ladders, to include step ladders)…..

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