Obama Signs Law to Prevent Encroachments on Nation’s Spaceports

President Barack Obama has signed into law a measure that will help the nation’s growing legion of spaceports fight the encroachment of obstacles such as transmission lines that could endanger suborbital spacecraft.

The measure, sponsored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was inspired by a problem experienced by the Mojave Air and Space Port, which is in the Congressman’s district. A utility company built extra tall transmission towers near the airport, sparking safety concerns among officials there.

Virgin Galactic is currently conducting flights tests of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle in Mojave. The spacecraft glides to a landing on the runway there.

“Most spaceports are located at existing airports, such as Mojave Air and Space Port, which is classified as a ‘General Aviation’ airport,” according to a press release from McCarthy’s office. “Because of this, the FAA is limited to the metrics prescribed for studying potential structural obstructions to general aviation airports and aircraft, and is unable to take into account the unique trajectories of suborbital vehicles.

“H.R. 6007 would give the Secretary of Transportation the authority to conduct aeronautical studies at spaceports, allowing the FAA to study the potential impact of structures on spacecraft arriving or departing from a licensed launch site,” the press release added. “Additionally, the bill requires rulemaking to implement this requirement within 18 months of enactment.”

Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Mojave Air and Space Port)
Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Mojave Air and Space Port)

“Mojave Air and Space Port is pleased to see another positive step forward in protecting the operational investment by so many, government and private sector alike,”  said spaceport Karina Drees.

“Once again, Majority Leader McCarthy has shown that he is committed to helping keep Mojave at the forefront of commercial spaceflight. This bill will help ensure that spaceports like ours are able to operate without fear of encroachment,” added George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.