House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders have introduced bipartisan legislation to clarify the authority of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate commercial space transportation accidents.
The Commercial Space Transportation Safety Act of 2022 (H.R. 8689) was introduced by Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) and is cosponsored by Aviation Subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen (D-WA), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The Members introduced similar legislation last Congress.
"As commercial space transportation technology advances, we must guarantee that safety progresses as well. This is the only way to ensure a robust industry and all the benefits of innovation," said Rep. Garret Graves. "This legislation clarifies how commercial space transportation accidents will be handled and how lessons learned will be applied. This is the product of engagement with stakeholders across the industry and will promote a strong culture of safety as passengers and cargo are transported to, from and within space."
"As commercial space travel continues to grow, Congress must keep the safety of the traveling public at the forefront," said Rep. Rick Larsen. "This bipartisan bill ensures NTSB can play an important role in the investigation of commercial space transportation accidents and work with FAA to ensure the safety of the traveling public."
"In the coming months, Congress will turn to the development of an NTSB reauthorization bill, and clarifying NTSB's role in commercial space transportation accidents must be a component of that effort," said Rep. Sam Graves. "This bill will relieve the commercial space transportation sector of unintended burdens by ensuring that NTSB accident investigation resources are appropriately used in major accidents, not when minor mishaps occur."
"The commercial space industry is expanding, and so too should our efforts to oversee it," said Rep. Peter DeFazio. "I'm pleased to join Subcommittee Ranking Member Garret Graves, Subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen, and Ranking Member Sam Graves in introducing the bipartisan Commercial Space Transportation Safety Act of 2022, which will ensure that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has the ability to oversee commercial space accidents independently of regulators, and uninhibited by politics, industry, costs, retribution, or censorship. By protecting the NTSB's independence and mandate to carry out unbiased investigations with safety recommendations, we will strengthen our nation's transportation system for the modern era."
The Commercial Space Transportation Safety Act of 2022:
Clarifies the NTSB's role in commercial space transportation accident investigations,
Addresses many of the concerns raised by the commercial space transportation industry about the NTSB's proposed rule regarding commercial space transportation accident investigations,
Narrows the NTSB's existing broad authority by specifying exactly what kind of commercial space transportation accidents the NTSB should investigate, ensuring that routine incidents or mishaps are not caught up in the rule, and
Requires that the NTSB enter into updated memoranda of understanding with other federal agencies that investigate commercial space transportation accidents to ensure that there is no duplication or confusion about which agency is responsible for an investigation.