Action on Extending California’s Spaceflight Liability Law Postponed to January

California_Great_SealSACRAMENTO (Steve Knight PR) — A measure to address an emerging commercial space travel industry in California authored by Senator Steve Knight (R-Antelope Valley) was held in the Senate Judiciary Committee today in order to work with committee members and industry leaders on the best strategy to move forward in California.

Senate Bill 415 seeks to extend limited liability protections that now cover spaceflight operators to include commercial space manufacturers and suppliers. The bill will be heard again in January 2014, when a vote will be taken before the bill continues through the legislative process.

Until recently, human space travel was accomplished through government space agencies, with volunteer participants assuming liability for injury and damage. Senator Knight’s Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act (AB 2243) from last year, provided limited liability for commercial space ventures to ensure innovators remain competitive in this promising marketplace. The bill would extend that limited liability to commercial space manufacturers and suppliers.

The measure brought an impressive panel of witnesses in support to testify at the Capitol, including Stu Witt, CEO and General Manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port, Michael Lopez-Alegria-former US Astronaut and ISS Commander, Karin Nilsdotter-CEO of Spaceport Sweden.

“Our business, like all business, is competitive. Last year, AB 2243 enabled California to be competitive,” said Stu Witt, CEO & General Manager of Mojave Air and Space Port. “But a change occurred this year when other states added manufacturers and suppliers, and to stay competitive, we must do the same.”

California, and specifically the High Desert, has a century long tradition of pioneering aviation, and human space flight since the Apollo era. California was also the site of the first private human space flight event, which resulted in the winning of the Ansari X Prize in Mojave, California, in 2004. Over the past few decades, California has lost much of its human space flight industry development to other states, such as Alabama, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Texas. The human space flight business in California continues to struggle due to the poor business climate in general, and the current litigious environment.

“The history of space flight and California are inseparable,” said Senator Knight. “Providing the commercial space industry with a competitive advantage will ensure our state maintains, and possibly gains, jobs in this important market.”

The States of Florida, Texas, Virginia, and most recently New Mexico have acted to relieve the business risks associated with new and well-financed companies that provide human space flight by passing legislation limiting the liability of such providers. Consequently, these states will become a magnet for human space flight companies currently doing business in California.

“California must remain competitive in the private pursuit of space to preserve our legacy,” continued Senator Knight. “This bill adds to my legislation from last year and launches us to the next level.”