NTSB Proposes Codifying Investigative Procedures for Commercial Space Accidents and Incidents

The spot part of SpaceShipTwo’s cockpit crashed with the body of Mike Alsbury. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WASHINGTON (Nov. 16, 2021) — The National Transportation Safety Board has proposed codifying its investigative procedures for commercial space accidents and incidents, it announced through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in the Federal Register Tuesday.


Spaceflight Liability Changes Advance in California Legislature

State Sen. Steve Knight
State Sen. Steve Knight

The California State Senate is moving forward with changes to a law that limits the liability of spacecraft operators and their suppliers for any injuries or deaths they cause to participants.

The measure, sponsored by State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster), would require spacecraft operators to enter into a “reciprocal waiver of claims with its contractors, subcontractors, customers, participants, and contractors and subcontractors of the customers or participants” to hold each other blameless in the event of an incident.


FAA’s Spaceflight Occupant Safety Practices Leave a Few Things Out

faa_logoI’ve been taking a look at the FAA’s “Draft Established Practices for Human Space Flight Occupant Safety” document since it was released, and I have to confess it has left me a bit puzzled.

It’s not the content that’s confusing; it’s actually very easy to understand. The problem has been figuring out how to make the material interesting. The document is drier than the Mojave in July.

I finally realized that the most interesting aspects are probably the things the FAA has decided are not established practices to safeguard space travelers. Like pressure suits. And launch escape systems. And defined standards to make sure occupants are healthy enough to fly.

In other words, the very things that have been baked into national space programs for more than 50 years.

Welcome to the NewSpace Age. It sure ain’t your father’s space program.


Rep. McCarthy Introduces Commercial Space Regulatory Measure

Capitol Building
WASHINGTON, DC (Kevin McCarthy PR) —
Congressman Kevin McCarthy today introduced the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act. The bill will streamline the regulatory process for commercial spacecraft, ensuring that the commercial spaceflight industry can continue to innovate quickly and safely, creating high-quality American jobs in the process.


Texas Spaceflight Bills Advance

texas_flagIn addition to a bill that would allow for the closing of Boca Chica Beach for SpaceX launches, three other pieces of space-related legislation are making their way through the Texas Legislature.

The bills, all sponsored by State Rep. John Davis (R-Houston), include:

  • HB 545, which would enable municipalities to establish their own spaceport development corporations;
  • HB 1791, which would align space flight activities in Texas with federal regulations;
  • HB 417, which would require one member of the state’s Aviation Advisory Committee to come from the commercial spaceflight industry.

HB 545 and HB 1791  have been approved by the House and are now before the Senate Economic Development Committee. HB 417 is before the House Transportation Committee for review.

FAA Plans Public Telecons on Commercial Space Regulations

 FAA Commercial Space Transportation
Advisory Committee Teleconferences


Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
1 p.m. EDT

Length: Approximately 1 hour


The purpose of these three teleconferences is to assist the FAA early in its development of regulations to protect occupants of commercial suborbital and orbital spacecraft. Although the FAA has not yet targeted a date for proposing regulations to protect the health and safety of crew and space flight participants, the FAA believes that the development of sound and appropriate regulations for human space flight can only be achieved with a deliberate, multi-year effort. Moreover, the FAA believes that early industry input into this regulatory effort before any formal proposal by the FAA is critical.


FAA’s Babbitt: Safety First in Commercial Spaceflight

“The FAA’s role is also critical – ensuring safety. We’ve set the safety bar very high and the commercial air transportation industry has met it. We still have room for improvement and I am confident everyone here is ready and willing to do the work….

“The challenge is to find ways to accommodate speed and enable growth, but without sacrificing safety. The FAA is open to innovative approaches and new ways of doing business so we can be responsive to the needs of industry, but we owe it to everyone to do that while still ensuring public safety….

“The FAA will work with other agencies and with industry to accommodate and facilitate growth in commercial space – but we will continue to put safety first. Period.”

— FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt, May 11, 2011

The Space Review This Week

Gear down. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

This week in The Space Review…

Space law and the new era of commercial spaceflight

As commercial spaceflight, including both suborbital and orbital human flights, become more common, these applications will raise new legal issues. Christopher J. Newman and Ben Middleton discuss some of the issues that space law experts will have to grapple with in the near future.

Tough decisions ahead for planetary exploration
Last month the planetary science community rolled out a study identifying its priorities for missions in the next decade. Jeff Foust reports on how the difficult choices included in that report are further complicated by NASA’s latest budget proposal.

In praise of Mercury

Last month NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft slipped into orbit around Mercury, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit the innermost planet. Lou Friedman describes his “personal, not scientific” connection to that rocky world.

The Big Bird and the turkey
While all the KH-9 reconnaissance satellites were launched on Titan rockets, would it have been possible to launch one on a space shuttle? Dwayne Day examines that question as the KH-9 program approaches declassification and the shuttle its own retirement.

Review: First Contact
The field of astrobiology has increasingly entered the mainstream of scientific research as scientists make new discoveries on Earth and beyond. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides an overview of the field and assesses the prospects for life elsewhere in the universe.

Perminov: Russia Stands Ready to Help Make Space Tourism a Reality

A proposed commercial Russian space station with Soyuz vehicles attached.

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov told media this week that his country’s engineers stand ready to help commercial space tourism and station operators domestically and in the United States make their vehicles safe and reliable.

“Roscosmos does not build space hotels. This is done by different commercial organizations supported by Roscosmos. As experts, we are in position to provide our assistance to the project funded not by the Government, in order to enhance their reliability,” Perminov said.


FAA Wants to Ramp Up Commercial Space Office, Launch Incentive Program

The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) would get an $11.23 million boost under the President’s proposed FY 2012 budget to enable the agency to oversee the emerging commercial launch market. The budget request also includes a $5 million request for a new Low-Cost Access to Space Incentive program and $1.3 million “to begin development and implementation of safety requirements for commercial human spaceflight.”


Video: NASA Supported Lunar Analog Base Being Built in North Dakota

During the ISPCS last week, I caught up with Ihrenes Enterprises CEO and Founder Irene Schnider. Her startup company is focused on providing space radiation analysis for human missions, with a focus on commercial flights that are set to begin later in the decade. She is also involved in building a lunar analog base in North Dakota with the help of NASA funding.

NASA Budget: Cancel Constellation, Spend on Commercial Alternatives and Heavy Lift


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) drives advances in science, technology, and exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality, stewardship of the Earth, and solutions to national and global challenges. The President’s Budget invests an additional $6 billion in NASA over the next five years – an overall $100 billion commitment to the agency.


NASA to Announce “Bold New Developments” in Human Spaceflight

nasa_logoNASA UPDATE

NASA will hold news conferences on Monday, Feb. 1, and Tuesday, Feb. 2, to discuss the fiscal year 2011 budget request and announce bold new developments in the nation’s civil space effort.

On Monday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Chief Financial Officer Beth Robinson will brief reporters about the agency’s fiscal year 2011 budget during a teleconference at 12:30 p.m. EST. This is a change from the previously announced 3 p.m. Monday news conference in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters in Washington.


Augustine Panel Downplays Launch Risks Over NASA Objections

An artist's conception of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida.
An artist's conception of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida.

Panel downplays risks of launch; NASA manager calls finding ‘a cop-out’
Florida Today

A presidential panel studying options for the nation’s human space program downplayed launch risk as a significant factor Thursday in evaluating the dangers astronauts will face on future flights.

Doing so — for the purposes of the group’s report to President Barack Obama — means that all NASA, military and commercial rockets rate the same in terms of relative risk despite differing levels of maturity, complexity and crew safety.