Commercial Spaceflight Measures Advance in Texas Legislature

texas_flagThe Texas spaceflight informed consent law would be significantly expanded to provide significantly greater protections for spaceflight operators, manufacturers and component suppliers under legislation now making its way through the State Legislature.

The bill is one of three measures being considered by lawmakers during this session. The other two measures would clarify the liability of municipalities and add a commercial spaceflight representative to the state’s Aviation Advisory Committee.

Under House Bill 1791, the definition of spaceflight activities in the informed consent law would be expanded to include “research, development, testing, or manufacture of a launch vehicle, reentry vehicle, or spacecraft or components of a launch vehicle, reentry vehicle, or spacecraft.”

The measure, introduced by Rep. John Davis of Houston, includes strengthened provisions for component manufacturers. The definition of “spacecraft” would be expanded to include “any object and its components designed to be launched for operations in a suborbital trajectory, earth orbit, or otherwise in outer space. The term includes a satellite, an object carrying crew or a space flight participant, and any subcomponents of the launch or reentry vehicle specifically designed or adapted for that object.”

Disability has been added to the list of injuries covered by the informed consent law, which requires participants to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks posed by spaceflight. The existing law includes “bodily injury, emotional distress, death, property damage, or any other loss.”

The measure would also extend liability coverage more broadly be expanding the definition of spaceflight entity to include advisers of the entity, manufacturer, or supplier, as well as “an owner or lessor of real property on which space flight activities are conducted, including a municipality, county, political subdivision, or spaceport development corporation…with a contractual relationship with a space flight entity.”

The law defines “crew” for the first time as “a human being who performs activities relating to the launch, reentry, or other operation of or in a spacecraft or launch or reentry vehicle.”

Finally, the measure adds a provision that states that sound from lawful spaceflight activities does not qualify as “unreasonable noise,” which will prevent citizens from filing complaints over it.

Davis introduced the bill on Feb. 25. It has not had its first reading or been referred to any committees.

Davis also has introduced HB 417, which would require one member of the Texas Aviation Advisory Committee to be from the state’s commercial space flight industry. The measure has been referred to the Transportation Committee.

Rep. Tom Craddick, who represents Midland, has introduced HB 278, which clarifies the liability of airports that will be used for spaceflight activities. Under the law, airports would have no “vicarious liability because of participation in a joint enterprise.”

The measure directly affects the Midland International Airport, which is applying to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a spaceport license as part of a deal for XCOR Aerospace to relocate its research and development facilities there from California.

Craddick introduced the bill in December. It has been referred to the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee and scheduled for a public hearing.