Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Bill Approved by Senate Committee

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

Jack Kennedy reports that a bill that direct tax revenues from Virginia companies engaged in commercial human spaceflights or commercial spaceflight training to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has been reported out of the Senate Finance Committee.

In an email to supporters, Kennedy wrote:

Senator William Wampler’s Virginia Senate Bill 1447 was reported from Senate Finance Committee late this morning – with amendments. There is a five year sunset provision that will require the measure to be reviewed again in 2016.

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?111+sum+SB1447

Personally, I have no objection to the sunset provision. I understand the politics of incrementalism. We did the same thing with the Virginia Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act in 2007 with the assistance of Del. Terry Kilgore. The sunset was subsequently removed in 2010. We will have additional steps in the budget next year if SB 1447 is passed by the House and signed by Gov. McDonnell.

I am happy that the Senate has our shared faith in the commercial space launch sector. The revised measure should go on-line sometime tonight after there is time for Legislative Services to get caught-up with the daily business.

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?111+sum+SB1447

We are continuing to build a good body of commercial space policy law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

– Jack

The measure would largely affect tax revenues from Space Adventures, which sends well-heeled clients to the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz capsules. The flights were suspended in 2009 due to a lack of seats but are expected to begin again in 2013. The company also has partnerships with Armadillo Aerospace and Boeing to market space seats on planned orbital vehicles. In the future, the measure could include revenues from Orbital Sciences Corporation, which has proposed a commercial crew transport to NASA.

In a letter released by Kennedy, Space Adventures President Tom Shelley said the company supported the legislation, in large part because the funds would put toward the construction of space infrastructure that companies would benefit from but can’t afford to fund on their own. Principle among these infrastructure projects is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, a commercial launch facility which is being jointly developed by Virginia and Maryland.

Space Adventures, is the only company to have arranged the flights for private citizens to space, and has been working with many of the ‘new space’ companies. One of the Virginia Space Flight Authority representatives met with me this past spring and we discussed flight opportunities from MARS. I made it clear, that we and our partners are not in a position to spend money for infrastructure. The ‘new space’ industry is investing hundreds of millions in new spacecraft and rocket technology, and will invest further millions more to comply with both FAA and NASA safety standards and training.

We support this legislation (Bill 1447) as a very unique way to assist an industry that is growing and attracting interest globally, by providing a portion of our corporate income tax to support an industry we are also heavily invested in.

Virginia was recognized by the FAA as the “most progressive state in the nation when it comes to commercial space”. While other states including New Mexico, Florida and Alaska, have invested millions in their Spaceport’s operations and infrastructure, Virginia’s conservative approach is something we understand and applaud. We hope you will approve this legislation and use our corporate income tax to enhance facilities at MARS so in the future we are able to bring customers to enjoy the Eastern Shore and all of its assets.

Shelley’s full letter is reproduced below.


Virginia General Assembly
Capitol Building
9th and Grace Streets
Richmond
VA 23219
January 31, 2011

Dear Senator Wampler and Members of the Virginia General Assembly,

Space Adventures is proudly based in the Commonwealth, the home of our nation’s first rocket launches from NASA Wallops flight facility 65 years ago. More recently, Members of the Virginia General Assembly have seen the importance of the space industry and the future of human spaceflight, and invested in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS).

Space Adventures, is the only company to have arranged the flights for private citizens to space, and has been working with many of the ‘new space’ companies. One of the Virginia Space Flight Authority representatives met with me this past spring and we discussed flight opportunities from MARS. I made it clear, that we and our partners are not in a position to spend money for infrastructure. The ‘new space’ industry is investing hundreds of millions in new spacecraft and rocket technology, and will invest further millions more to comply with both FAA and NASA safety standards and training.

We support this legislation (Bill 1447) as a very unique way to assist an industry that is growing and attracting interest globally, by providing a portion of our corporate income tax to support an industry we are also heavily invested in.

Virginia was recognized by the FAA as the “most progressive state in the nation when it comes to commercial space”. While other states including New Mexico, Florida and Alaska, have invested millions in their Spaceport’s operations and infrastructure, Virginia’s conservative approach is something we understand and applaud. We hope you will approve this legislation and use our corporate income tax to enhance facilities at MARS so in the future we are able to bring customers to enjoy the Eastern Shore and all of its assets.

I regret I cannot be with you in Richmond on February 1st, but would welcome any questions you have about Space Adventures.

Yours faithfully,

[Signed]

Tom Shelley
President
Space Adventures