Friday, April 26, 2013

Texas Space Bill Enhances Private Industry

Photo Courtesy of the Texas Office of the Governor, Public Domain
The Texas Space Bill, set for a House floor vote on Monday, April 29, 2013, will facilitate private space exploration.

The space bill will benefit private aeronautical engineering companies and space exploration firms operating in Texas. Texas, like Florida and Ohio, has a deep history with space exploration. Many people still quip a NASA communication, "Houston, we have a problem" dating back to the Apollo program.

Private firms, such as Raytheon, work with missile and rocket technology that is sometimes associated with spacecraft and space exploration.

In recent years, many private space exploration companies have relocated to Texas. One such example is XCOR who relocated from California to near Midland, TX. Governor Perry helped to broker the deal to move the company. The firm's move was primarily due to California's increasing taxes versus the lower costs of living and tax rates in Texas. Texas also does not have a state income tax, which further benefits any employees of the firm.

The Space Bill, HB 1791, regulates testing, flights, launches, re-entries, and landing by private craft within the state of Texas. It establishes what liabilities are incurred by any company engaged in the enterprise. It lists which ones are incurred by the state. It establishes the legal use of private and public lands contracted for these uses.

 Sec. 100A.002.  LIMITED LIABILITY. (a) Except as provided by this section [Subsection (b)], a space flight entity is not liable to any person for direct or indirect damages resulting from nuisance, or subject to any claim for abatement or other injunctive relief arising from space flight activities. 
       (b)  Except as provided by this section, a space flight entity is not liable to any person for a space flight participant injury or damages arising out of [the] space flight activities [participant injury] if the space flight participant has signed the agreement required by Section 100A.003 and given written consent as required by 51 [49] U.S.C. Section 50905 [70105].

In short, it legalizes private space exploration originating in Texas as long as it conforms to FAA regulations and federal law.

(4)  "Space flight entity" means a person who conducts space flight activities and who, to the extent required by federal law, has obtained the appropriate Federal Aviation Administration license or other authorization, including safety approval and a payload determination.  The term includes: 
                   (A)  a manufacturer or supplier of components, services, or vehicles used by the entity and reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration as part of issuing the license or other authorization; [and
                   (B)  an employee, officer, director, owner, stockholder, member, manager, advisor, or partner of the entity, manufacturer, or supplier; and 
                   (C)  an owner or lessor of real property on which space flight activities are conducted, including a municipality, county, political subdivision, or spaceport development corporation under Section 507.001, Local Government Code, in this state with a contractual relationship with a space flight entity.

Since the federal government and NASA cancelled the Space Shuttle Project and has suspended manned spaceflights, exploration by private companies may be the future of manned space exploration.

The Space Bill puts Texas back on the map for space exploration. Furthermore, it places Texas at the forefront of privately funded (and performed) space exploration. The first manned commercial passenger spacecraft just may be launched from Texas.