Georgia Senate Passes Spaceflight Limited Liability Measure

The Georgia Senate has passed a limited liability law for human spaceflight as part of an effort to establish a spaceport in Camden County.

Other states seeking to get in on the growing commercial space industry have adopted legislation requiring plaintiffs to prove “gross negligence” in order to collect damages, a tougher standard than “ordinary negligence,” and Georgia should do the same in order to compete for space business, said Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, the bill’s chief sponsor….

The proposed Spaceport Camden could create more than 2,000 jobs in an economically stressed part of Georgia, while at the same time serving as a catalyst for companies involved in the commercial space industry in metro Atlanta.

An environmental impact study spearheaded by the Federal Aviation Administration that began late in 2015 is due to produce a draft report by the end of this year….

Also this week, a committee in the Georgia House of Representatives passed an identical bill offering liability protection for spaceport activities.

Meanwhile, the FAA is moving ahead with an assessment of the proposed coastal spaceport.

During an update of the ongoing study released this week, Stacey Zee, a FAA environmental specialist explained the status of the ongoing work.

“The team has been working hard over the past few months to develop the draft EIS and write reports based on the cultural resource surveys and wetland surveys that we completed in the fall,” Zee said.

A survey has been conducted to determine if there are any jurisdictional wetlands on the site for the proposed spaceport. The Army Corps of Engineers has been tasked with reviewing and verifying the information, she said.

The team will also begin consultations with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to discuss endangered species and potential impacts from rocket launches from the site.

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FAA Officials Stress Need for Liability Law in Georgia

georgia_state_sealFAA officials were in Georgia this week telling lawmakers the state needs to pass liability laws shielding spaceflight companies from lawsuits from injured passengers and their heirs if it wants to compete with other states.

“In states like Florida and Texas that have a law, that is the statute a federal judge is going to look at,” Dan Murray, a manager with the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, told members of a Georgia House subcommittee exploring a planned commercial spaceport in southeastern Georgia.

The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation this year aimed at shielding spaceport operators from civil lawsuits stemming from injuries to civilians who participate in a space flight. But the bill died in the Georgia Senate amid concerns expressed primarily by Georgians with second homes on nearby Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island worried about the noise from commercial launches and their potential to pose a safety hazard.

Tuesday’s testimony from Murray and the FAA’s Jared Stout made it clear Georgia needs a liability shield law if the proposed Spaceport Camden is to compete with spaceports in Texas and Florida, said Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, the House bill’s chief sponsor and chairman of the subcommittee.

“These states are trying to make themselves competitive by giving some additional layer of [protection from] liability beyond the federal act,” he said.

Read the full story.

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Commercial Human Spaceflight Industry Lightly Regulated

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by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

U.S. regulations for commercial human spaceflight give the wide latitude to develop and fly their launch systems while providing substantial protections about being sued for injuries and deaths resulting from accidents. What follows is is a brief summary of the provisions, most of which have been in place since December 2004.
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Georgia House Passes Space Flight Act

georgia_state_sealThe Georgia House of Representatives has approved a bill that would prevent spaceflight participants and their heirs from suing spaceflight providers and equipment suppliers for injuries and deaths except in limited circumstances.

The Georgia Space Flight Act would require passengers to sign an agreement waiving their rights before stepping aboard a spacecraft. The protections would not apply if a participant’s injury or death were caused by a “space flight entity’s gross negligence evidencing willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the space flight participant; or intentionally caused by a space flight entity.”

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Senate Holds Up Commercial Space Bill

The spot where SpaceShipTwo's cockpit crashed. Mike Alsbury's body lay just off camera to the left. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
The spot where SpaceShipTwo’s cockpit crashed. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Although House and Senate negotiators have worked out differences between different versions of commercial space bills, final approval is being held up over liability provisions that one representative called “indefensible”:

Sources familiar with the status of the bill said that one or more senators placed a hold on the bill Oct. 29, preventing the bill from moving forward there. No senators have publicly announced that they have blocked consideration of the bill, and spokespersons from several Senate offices did not respond to requests for comment about the bill Nov. 3.

At issue, according to sources, are some provisions in the bill dealing with liability. That includes one section that gives federal, rather than state, courts jurisdiction over any cases that arise from a licensed commercial launch. Another section adds spaceflight participants to cross-waivers of liability already required for other customers of commercial launches.

Some Democratic members of the House Science Committee opposed those provisions when the committee marked up a version of the bill in May. “This really is quite an indefensible provision,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) during discussion then regarding the federal jurisdiction clause of the House bill, arguing that the bill is “basically providing the launch industry with complete immunity from any civil action.”

The American Association for Justice, a legal organization formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, also spoke out against those sections of the bill in May. “Industries that lobby for immunity from accountability might as well hang up a sign saying they don’t trust themselves to be safe,” Linda Lipsen, chief executive of the association, said in a May 13 statement.

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Spaceflight Liability Changes Advance in California Legislature

State Sen. Steve Knight
State Sen. Steve Knight

The California State Senate is moving forward with changes to a law that limits the liability of spacecraft operators and their suppliers for any injuries or deaths they cause to participants.

The measure, sponsored by State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster), would require spacecraft operators to enter into a “reciprocal waiver of claims with its contractors, subcontractors, customers, participants, and contractors and subcontractors of the customers or participants” to hold each other blameless in the event of an incident.

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Arizona Legislature Considers Limited Liability Bill for Space Companies

Arizona_state_sealArizona is looking to emulate its neighbor, New Mexico, by passing a bill protecting space companies from being sued for injuring or killing passengers:

A bill at the Arizona Legislature would give space flight companies — yes space flight companies — protections against being sued.

The measure is aimed at helping possible space tourism and commercial space flights being planned in southern parts of the state.

House Bill 2163 creates some legal protections for commercial and private space flight companies by codifying liability release forms the companies could have passengers sign.

“This is actually important,” said Steve Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. “Arizona, especially Southern Arizona, is in the Space Flight Corridor that extends from Texas to California. One of my members in Tucson, Paragon Space Development Corp., is planning trips to the outer edges of space, to the moon and to Mars.”

Paragon is not actually going to send people to space; they have a high-altitude balloon project in the works. But, the legislation will apparently cover their activities.

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Steve Knight Weighs Run for Congress

State Sen. Steve Knight
State Sen. Steve Knight

California State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), a key supporter of commercial space, says he will run for Congress next year in the 25th District should the current office holder, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), decides to retire, the Antelope Valley Press reported today.

McKeon, 75, has not announced his plans, but there is widespread speculation in political circles that he will elect to step down next year rather than seek another two-year term, the newspaper reported.

The state senator, whose father William J. “Pete” Knight flew the X-15 rocket plane, has been a key backer of commercial space measures in the California Legislature. He introduced a limited liability bill designed to protect commercial space providers from passenger lawsuits that was approved with revisions. He also has introduced several other commercial space bills now being considered by legislators.

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ISPCS: Alan Ladwig Talk

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Alan Ladwig
Chief, To Orbit Productions

TWEETS

Back from lunch at #ISPCS with @SpaceArtAl talking about risks and rewards of commercial spaceflight industry. (Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust)

Alan Ladwig says he’s consulting with a new, as yet unannounced group that plans to do comm’l spaceflight participant training. (Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust)

#ISPCS – Alan Ladwig – is he holding back? No, Alan has been set free to tell us what he really thinks!  (Wayne Hale ‏@waynehale )

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California Legislators Water Down Spaceflight Informed Consent Measure

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

California legislators have significantly watered down a proposed law that would have held human spacecraft operators, manufacturers and suppliers not liable for injuries or deaths sustained by passengers if the participant signed an informed consent agreement acknowledging the inherent danger of their flights.

Under amendments to the bill, companies would have “limited civil liability” even if they were not grossly negligent or intentionally caused injuries. Legislators have also removed vehicle manufacturers and component suppliers from coverage under the measure.

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California Spaceflight Limited Liability Bill Sails Through House, Now in Senate

Legislation that would limit the liability of spacecraft operators if they injure or kill passengers during flights has passed the California House of Representatives 73-0 and is now up for consideration in the State Senate. The measure had its first reading in the Senate and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Judiciary for review.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Knight of California’s 36th district and promoted by Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt, would require that passengers sign an informed consent agreement acknowledging that spaceflight is dangerous before flying.

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Mojave Spaceport Hires Consultant as Prospects for Limited Liability Bill Brighten

To boldly go.... (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The East Kern Airport District (EKAD) has hired a former state senator to help promote legislation that would limit the liability of spacecraft operators if they injure passengers during flights.

On Tuesday, the EKAD Board of Directors voted to hire former Sen. Roy Ashburn at a rate of $5,000 per month over six months for consulting services. Ashburn’s main responsibility is to promote an informed consent bill introduced in February by Assemblyman Steve Knight of California’s 36th district.

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