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New Mexico Spaceport America: New Legislation for Commercial Space Industry

WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo fly over New Mexico's Spaceport America. Credit Virgin Galactic

(Left to Right) Rick Holdridge NMSA Board Chairman, NM Senator Mary Kay Papen New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and Christine Anderson Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA). Credit: NMSA

New Mexico’s Spaceport America got a boost in readying itself to handle commercial space operations – such as suborbital flights of passengers via Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo launch system.

Following unanimous passage by the state’s legislature, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed legislation April 2 to expand existing liability protections for spaceflight operators to spaceflight manufacturers and suppliers.

Called the New Mexico Expanded Space Flight Informed Consent Act, the bill prevents lawsuit abuse and addresses the inherent risks of space flight. It was written to ensure New Mexico’s Spaceport America remains at the forefront of a nationally-competitive and rapidly-growing commercial space industry.

Critical years

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 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 New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) Executive Director Christine Anderson.

Open for business

“With this protection enacted,” Anderson said, “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.”

From its regular launch business with 18 vertical launches to date and a growing spaceport tourism industry, the spaceport continues to grow.

Located near Las Cruces, New Mexico, 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 aerospace firms such as Virgin Galactic, as well as Lockheed Martin, Moog-FTS, and UP Aerospace and their customers — NASA and the Department of Defense — to develop commercial spaceflight at the new facility.

By Leonard David

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