WASHINGTON, DC (CSF PR) — Today the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a public hearing to adjudicate the probable cause of last year’s SpaceShipTwo test flight accident, which resulted in an in-flight breakup. NTSB’s investigators and analysts presented their findings, conclusions, and recommendations in a draft report to the NTSB Board members. Throughout the discussion, NTSB staff and Board members praised the industry’s strong commitment to transparency and cooperation during the investigation, which helped lead to a more timely and complete resolution of the accident investigation.
“We cannot undo the unfortunate events that transpired last October,” said CSF President Eric Stallmer, “but we will successfully apply, and in some cases have already applied, the lessons learned to make our entire industry better and safer as a result.”
“CSF welcomes the NTSB’s report, and we pledge our support to promptly carrying out the recommendations given to us by the Board. We also pledge to continue to work with the Congress to ensure FAA AST has the resources necessary to fully address the safety findings and recommendations in the report.”
NTSB’s draft report put forth ten recommendations directed at both the commercial space industry and FAA AST to improve processes, communication, and collaboration within and between one another. Importantly, none of the recommendations include calls for new regulations or additional government regulatory authority.
The NTSB proposes that the Secretary of Transportation utilize his current authority to improve safety through more collaboration with industry. The NTSB’s draft report reaffirms the integrity of the regulatory framework that currently underpins the commercial spaceflight industry. It adds additional credence to the bipartisan effort in Congress to extend the current framework before key provisions expire in September.
NTSB also issued two specific recommendations for CSF as the lead trade association in the industry dedicated to pursuing the highest levels of safety:
1) Advise commercial spaceflight operators to work with local emergency response partners to revise emergency response procedures for planning to ensure that helicopter and other resources are appropriately deployed during flights; and
2) Collaborate with FAA AST to develop and issue human factor guidance for operators to use throughout the design and operation of a vehicle. The guidance should address but not be limited to the human factor issues identified during the SpaceShipTwo accident investigation.
The NTSB Board voted to modify the staff’s draft findings and recommendations and approve them in revised form. The finalized report is expected to be published in the next two to four weeks.
“In his conclusion today, NTSB Chairman Hart reminded us that ‘anybody’s accident is everybody’s accident…when it comes to safety, industry must cooperate and collaborate with each other and with the FAA.’ That partnership among competitors and the government is why the CSF exists; an important dynamic NTSB recognized in issuing two of its recommendations to us today,” Stallmer concluded.