Commercial Space

​​​​​​​​​Currently the US is leading the way in the commercial space industry, and the NTSB has been involved in commercial space investigations for more than 30 years. The Air Carrier and Space Investigations Division (AS-10):

  • ​Investigates accidents and serious incidents involving launch or reentry of FAA-licensed or permitted commercial space vehicles.
  • Participates in the Quad Agency Working Group​ (USAF/SF, FAA, NASA, and NTSB) which was formed to ensure good communication between all agencies in the event of a major mishap.
  • Performs outreach to commercial space operators.
  • Participates in tabletop exercises to ensure all government and industry participants understand the likely actions of each organization following a commercial space mishap accident.


​In 2014, led the investigation into the fatal in-flight breakup of Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo. ​

In 2003, more than 40 NTSB investigators assisted the Columbia Accident Investigation Board with the investigation into the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

In 1993, led the investigation of a procedural anomaly associated with the launch of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Peg​asus​ expendable launch vehicle.

In 1986, NTSB investigators assisted the Rogers Commission with the investigation into the los​s of the Space Shuttle Challenger​.

​​Key Objectives of NTSB Commercial Space Accident Investigations:

  • ​Use​ the party process, determine the probable cause (root cause) of an​ accident/serious incident and make safety recommendations that will enhance commercial space transportation
  • Ensure International Traffic in Arms Regulations and Export Administration Regulations (ITAR/EAR) hardware and data are handled appropriately 

        ​ Wreckage layout for SpaceShipTwo