On Saturday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signed into law the “New Mexico Space Flight Informed Consent Act,” following similar legislation already passed in Virginia and Florida. The legislation marks a key step towards commercial operations of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo at the New Mexico spaceport. Recognizing that commercial suborbital spaceflight is a developing industry, the law provides critical liability protections that will enable spaceflight businesses to operate efficiently and effectively for their customers.
“This legislation secures New Mexico’s investment in Spaceport America and its resulting job creation by ensuring we are competitive with other space states such as Virginia and Florida who have similar legislation in place,” said Gov. Richardson.
The state legislation builds upon the federal Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, passed by Congress in 2004, which states that “space transportation is inherently risky” and requires space flight participants to sign an informed consent waiver in recognition of this fact.
Steve Landeene, Executive Director of Spaceport America, added, “The passage of the Space Flight Informed Consent Act was critical to the success of Spaceport America and our ability to attract and retain commercial space companies to New Mexico. Any company taking participants into space must obtain a signed waiver where they acknowledge the inherent risks of spaceflight.” Landeene said that this protects New Mexico and operators licensed by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation such as Virgin Galactic, but still allows legal options in cases of gross negligence.
Spaceport America’s 10,000-foot runway is currently under construction in preparation for flights of SpaceShipTwo. Since August 2009, Spaceport America has created almost 500 construction jobs in New Mexico, with more to come.