Yesterday Blue Origin's New Shephard had an anomaly during launch. Happens around 1:22:58 in this video

The accident happened around 29,000ft and the capsule fired its escape motor before parachuting back to Earth. The rocket itself seems to have been lost.

When Virgin Galactic flew outside its designated flight area the FAA investigated, but in that case, Virgin Galactic clearly broke flight regulations. What (if any) US government agencies investigate a private rocket mishap?


2 Answers 2


FAA again. They license all commercial launches, and are responsible for investigating. The FAA has officially grounded New Shepard, pending review. They will also oversee the investigation.

Spaceflight in many ways is managed the same way and same agencies as airflight. If there was an airplane accident then the FAA would similarly oversee the investigation of it. Granted within the FAA there are separate departments, they still manage both.

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    $\begingroup$ "Spaceflight in many ways is managed the same way and same agencies as airflight." – This might be related to the fact that you first need to get through the air before you can reach space. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ @PaŭloEbermann Or just because there's no other agency with related expertise (NASA isn't a regulatory agency). Maybe if and when spaceflight becomes more routine, investigating accidents could be transferred to the NTSB. $\endgroup$
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Barmar: your "if and when" actually happened last week, see space.stackexchange.com/a/60341/6156 $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ @PaŭloEbermann - Which makes me wonder if it would still be an FAA matter if the rocket blew up outside of Earth orbit. $\endgroup$
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 18:14

NTSB and FAA share responsibility

You have great timing! Five days ago, FAA and NTSB signed an agreement on this exact issue. You can read the full text of the agreement here (PDF) and the NTSB's press release here. NTSB is now responsible if either of the following conditions apply:

A fatality or serious injury to any person, regardless of whether the person was on board the commercial space launch or reentry vehicle, or damage to property not associated with the commercial space launch or reentry activities or the launch site, from debris that could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious injury.

FAA retains primary responsibility for investigating all other mishaps. The New Shepard anomaly did not cause a loss of life and it did not damage non-spaceflight property, so the FAA is in charge.

*In case you're curious, "mishap" is a formal legal term, and it is defined in 14 CFR 401.7.


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