Spaceport bill appears to be done deal

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Aerial view of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building (center), Spaceport Operations Center dome building (far left), spaceport runway, taxiway and apron at Spaceport America. (Image courtesy of Spaceport America)

Courtesy of Spaceport America

Aerial view of the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building (center), Spaceport Operations Center dome building (far left), spaceport runway, taxiway and apron at Spaceport America.

A bill that would protect companies supplying parts to crafts that use Spaceport America “appears clear to launch,” KRQE-TV in Albuquerque is reporting.

The N.M. House unanimously approved the legislation today. The state Senate has approved an identical bill unanimously, but before the legislation — which protects parts suppliers from being sued — can make it to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk for her signature, the House or  Senate must pass the other chamber’s version of the legislation without making any changes.

KRQE is quoting Martinez’s office as saying she’ll sign the legislation if it makes it to her desk.

The news pleases Spaceport America’s anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic. Here’s the statement the company released to KRQE:

“We thank the New Mexico Legislature for its rapid passage of this important legislation, and recognize the governor for her leadership in making this issue a priority for the state. Throughout this process, we have emphasized the importance of bringing New Mexico into parity with states that are competing for space business. We believe this legislation is an important step toward making Spaceport America a successful, job-creating enterprise.”

As Las Cruces Sun-News reporter Diana Alba Soular reported last month, in an article done for New Mexico In Depth, the bill’s passage has the potential to boost Martinez’s economic development record, which some say is a mixed bag so far. And it is critical to the future of the spaceport, which the state and local communities have already spent more than $200 million to build.

The bill had twice failed to pass the Legislature. In the weeks before the current session started, Virgin Galactic’s CEO said the company would rethink its plans if the measure fails this year. Some other states have already enacted such liability protections in the race to attract the commercial space industry.

Among the additions to the bill that helped it sail through the Legislature this year is a provision that requires companies to buy $1 million in liability insurance.

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