Space accidents: NTSB and FAA agree to investigate

HOUSTON (AP) — Two federal agencies agreed on Friday which will conduct accident investigations in the nascent commercial space sector that includes launching tourists high above Earth.

The National Transportation Safety Board will take the lead in investigating crashes that result in death or serious injury or that create life-threatening debris. The Federal Aviation Administration will handle further investigations.

The NTSB is currently the primary investigator of accidents involving aircraft and other modes of transportation, but does not have the authority to write regulations. The FAA is the primary safety regulator for the aviation industry.

The two agencies are often at odds, usually when the safety office feels its recommendations are being ignored by the FAA.

The agreement announced at NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston is the first to be signed by agency leaders in 22 years – before commercial human spaceflight began. It also details how they will share information after an accident.

“This agreement is proof that the federal government can keep pace with the exciting advancements taking place in the private sector while prioritizing safety as we enter a new space age,” said NTSB Chairwoman, Jennifer Homendy, in a statement.

Licensed space launches have increased in recent years, with operators including SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. They launched civilians into suborbital flights and put satellites into orbit.

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