While the FAA, as the regulator of atmospheric flight, issues launch licenses to operators of commercial space vehicles, it is barred by a piece of Ronald Reagan-era legislation from interfering in their technical development. The idea was to allow the technology to evolve naturally, like that of early airliners, before codifying a set of certification standards for passenger-carrying spacecraft. A later law, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, permits the FAA to step in if an inflight fatality occurs. The Oct. 31 accident was the first such fatality in commercial space flight. If the FAA exercises its right to impose its scrutiny on the feather system, which is the central design feature of SS2, the spaceplane's development, already slow, will likely be further retarded, and its ability to attract investment impaired.