Spaceport America in New Mexico is still unfinished and has yet to see a single commercial spaceflight, but it is apparently already in need of saving.
Or so says the Save our Spaceport Coalition, which held a press conference this morning in
Albuquerque. The event was held to “announce the formation of a group dedicated to pass a new law limiting the liability for space accidents in order to ensure the future of Spaceport America and save thousands of jobs in aerospace, tourism, and construction,” according to a press release from the coalition.
New Mexico already has an informed consent law exempting spaceflight participants and their families from suing in the event of injuries or deaths except in cases of gross negligence or intentional harm. That measure covers Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism firm that has signed a 20-year lease as the anchor tenant at Spaceport America.
However, the measure does not cover spacecraft manufacturers and suppliers. Those categories include Virgin Galactic, which bought out Scaled Composites’ interest in the Spaceship Company, which is building the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo vehicles that will be used at Spaceport America. The Spaceship Company has been renamed and brought under the control of Virgin Galactic.
Spaceport officials have said that without the expanded protections, it has proven difficult to convince other spaceflight companies to locate to the $209-million, taxpayer-funded spaceport south of Truth or Consequences. Additional tenants are required to make the spaceport self sufficient financially.
“The coalition includes the space industry, the aviation industry, state tourism, economic development groups, education organizations, and legislative sponsors,” according to the press release. “Scheduled to speak are the Tourism Association of New Mexico, Raton Public Schools, a defense contractor, representatives from New Mexico State University, and Virgin Galactic.”
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which oversees Spaceport America, put out a notice yesterday that a quorum of its members might be present at the Save our Spaceport Coalition meeting today. The notice stated that NMSA would not formulate any policy or take any actions as a body.