Following similar laws passed in states such as Texas and Florida, Georgia has just passed a bill, that supporters of a Georgia spaceport say is critical in attracting commercial spaceflight operators, by a vote of 164-8 sending it on to the Senate for consideration.
The Georgia Space Flight Act, or House Bill 734, follows on from the announcement last year by chamber officials, that Camden County, Georgia aims to house the next spaceport. Officials have already put plans in motion to start this endeavour by approving an option to buy 4,000 acres for the proposed spaceport on a former industrial site, where the world's most powerful rocket motor was test fired in the '60s.
The bill passed yesterday would require rocket ship passengers to sign away any claims against the commercial operator and its suppliers if something goes wrong. However, 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.”
The space tourism industry is rapidly gaining momentum and with flights to the edge of space starting from at least $250,000 and upwards, it is expected that people who have signed up for such a trip, know what they are getting themselves into. “We’re not talking about people who are not informed about the inherent risks of spaceflight,” said Rep. Jason Spencer, who sponsored the bill.
Nonetheless, anyone on the ground who is injured or suffers property damage will still be able to sue and could collect from the insurance required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Amendments to the bill which would have banned lawsuits over noise complaints stemming from the possible spaceport in Camden, were also stripped from the measure in its last stages before submission to the House.
Advocates of the bill, of which there seems many, are eager for the state to capitalise on the global $330 billion space industry by rebranding Georgia’s coast to become Georgia’s Space Coast. “Camden County, as well as the state of Georgia, is on its way to making history again. Today’s passage of HB 734 sends a huge message to the commercial space industry that Georgia is now in the commercial space race,” said Spencer. The measure now goes to the Georgia Senate for a vote.