The Alabama Senate has passed a measure to establish a spaceport authority that would seek funding for a study on whether to develop a federally-licensed spaceport in the state.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), would create the Alabama Space Authority within the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to:
promote the research and development of new space exploration and spaceport technologies;
sponsor conferences and business round tables within the aerospace, aviation, and related industries;
promote activities and industries related to space exploration; and,
provide for the initial support needed to apply for federal grant funding for a spaceport study.
The authority would include representatives from “the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the Alabama Department of Commerce, ADECA, Alabama Department of Transportation, the Governor, the Legislature, and other individuals with knowledge and interest in space technology.”
The bill now moves to the House for consideration.
A measure that would authorize the creation of an Alabama Space Authority charged with promoting the state’s space industry and developing a spaceport has been advancing through the Legislature.
The legislation has passed the Senate and was approved by the House Technology and Research Committee on Wednesday, according to media reports. The committee’s approval paved the way for a vote by the full House.
Alabama State Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, missed a key vote on the state’s budget on Tuesday because he was in Washington talking to Federal Aviation Administration officials about getting a spaceport.
“If we can get out ahead of this, we can lock it up,” he said.
Dial said that in the next few weeks he’ll introduce a bill that would create an Alabama Spaceport Authority, within the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. A draft of the bill states that the spaceport authority would “identify public lands for space launch” and “encourage the leveraging of venture capital and seed public-private partnerships to promote private enterprise.”
Alabama lawmakers say they hope their state can be one of the first in the Southeast to complete a commercial spaceport to ferry travelers, tourists and cargo into space.
Legislators from Alabama’s state Senate and House of Representatives met in the joint committee room nicknamed “Star Wars” on Monday to announce that they would introduce joint resolutions to set up a panel to look at the possibility of bringing commercial spaceflight to the state.
“This is going to happen somewhere,” said Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, who is sponsoring his chamber’s resolution. “It’s going to happen in the Southeast, why not us? It’s not Star Trek anymore — it’s coming.”
Discussions have not yet begun as to where such a spaceport would be sought in the state.
Northwest Florida Daily News has a report on the recent summit by the Aerospace Alliance, a public-private partnership of business and economic development leaders from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It sounds they had a lot of ideas but not much concensus:
[Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer] Carroll said one of the biggest challenges her administration has dealt with since taking office is where to go with the space program now that space shuttle flights have ended. The space program is a $65 billion industry in Florida that is responsible for about 700,000 jobs, and Carroll was adamant the program wasn’t going away.
“The space shuttle ended. Fine, we move forward,” Carroll said. “During the time the shuttle had its last launch, the media said, ‘The shuttle program is over, space is finished.’ No it’s not, and many of you know we’re far from finished. There’s too much at stake for intelligence and our national security to no longer be a part of the space and aerospace industry.”
However, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey disagreed with Carroll’s assessment. McCaffrey said the space industry is central to the entire armed forces, but that America’s military advantage will disappear if it is not the leading space power on Earth.
“The space program is a disaster,” McCaffrey said during a press conference at the summit. “I would argue right now we’re No. 2 in space. The Russians are in a slight lead. We’ve got to do something about it.”
The Aerospace Alliance has posted the presentations made during the summit.
The Huntsville Times takes a look at the love-hate relationship that Alabama’s elected officials have toward the federal government which they are determined to cut back on while squeezing every possible cent out of it to benefit their own constituents. Despite their calls to make sacrifices to reduce the national deficit, they are determined to make sure their state doesn’t do so.