Space Commerce

New Mexico Enacts Commercial Spaceflight Legislation

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 2, 2013
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New Mexico Enacts Commercial Spaceflight Legislation

Following unanimous passage by the state’s legislature, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed legislation today expanding existing liability protections for spaceflight operators to spaceflight manufacturers and suppliers.
The New Mexico Expanded Space Flight Informed Consent Act prevents lawsuit abuse and addresses the inherent risks of space flight and is written to ensure New Mexico’s Spaceport America remains at the forefront of a nationally-competitive and rapidly-growing commercial space industry.

“We are not only reaffirming the major commitment New Mexicans have made to Spaceport America but we now have an even stronger opportunity to grow the number of commercial space jobs at the spaceport and across our state,” said Governor Susana Martinez. “This legislation will prevent lawsuit abuse and make it easier for businesses related to the space travel industry to thrive and succeed right here in New Mexico. After calling for this legislation in 2012 and again in my State of the State address this year, I’m pleased to be able to sign this bill into law today.”

Building on existing legislation passed in 2010, which covered only spaceflight operators like Virgin Galactic, the new law provides coverage to both operators and their supply chain during the critical early years of the industry’s development. The enhancement, which costs taxpayers nothing, still allows legal options for spaceflight participants in cases of willful, wanton or reckless disregard, while creating an environment that enables New Mexico to more successfully recruit and retain commercial space tenants and customers for human spaceflight operations at Spaceport America.

“The Spaceport has the potential to be a major economic driver for New Mexico and it’s absolutely critical that we do everything we can to encourage its success,” added Senator Mary Kay Papen, who sponsored the legislation in the New Mexico Senate.

“This bill will allow the commercial space industry to continue to make a home in New Mexico and add jobs to our state,” said Representative Jim White, who carried the measure in the New Mexico House of Representatives. “This has been a pressing need for some time and it was essential that we addressed this issue during the legislative session, not just to keep Virgin Galactic here in New Mexico, but to allow other, smaller businesses related to the space industry to thrive as well.”

“The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) is grateful to the Governor for her strong support of this bill” said NMSA Chairman Rick Holdridge. “We are also grateful for the collaborative effort between legislators, our bill sponsors, Sen. Mary Kay Papen and Rep. Jim White, and the legion of dedicated local supporters.”

“The passage of this expanded liability protection is extremely important to the future of New Mexico’s leadership position in the commercial space industry, and demonstrates the appreciation and strong support by our Governor for the cutting edge space technology and the associated jobs that will come to our state.” said NMSA Executive Director Christine Anderson. “With this protection enacted, NMSA is now ready and able to get back to the business of building the commercial space industry here in New Mexico. I would like to also emphasize that Spaceport America is open for business.”

Spaceport America has already created over 1,100 construction jobs in New Mexico and the continuing economic impact is already delivering on its promise to the people of New Mexico. From its regular launch business with 18 vertical launches to date and a growing spaceport tourism industry, the spaceport continues to grow. Spaceport America is now generating consistent revenues for the State of New Mexico following the commencement of rent on the 20-year lease of the spaceport’s main terminal hangar facility, signed with Virgin Galactic in 2008. The NMSA continues to work closely with leading aerospace firms such as Virgin Galactic, Lockheed Martin, Moog-FTS, and UP Aerospace and their customers NASA and the Department of Defense to develop commercial spaceflight at the new facility.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.