Deal signs space flight bill, launches state into 'space race'

With a stroke of a pen, Georgia is now "one small step" closer to becoming a competitive player in the commercial space industry.

On Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 1, also known as the "Georgia Space Flight Act" into law. The bill, which aims to protect the space industry from lawsuits by presumed space tourists, was considered "must-pass" legislation in order to draw more commercial companies to the Georgia coast.

"It’s positioned just right to launch satellites and other spacecraft into space," Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) told 11Alive's Doug Richards back in February. "It has a lot of promise for our state."

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Back then, Ligon said legislators were excited about the prospect of launching rockets from the state's Atlantic coast, but were also worried about the potential pitfalls: launches where the rockets either explode into a fireball in the air or the ones that barely make it off the ground.

With the possibility of injury so obvious, Ligon said he introduced the bill to protect the space industry from lawsuits by injured employees or others. However, it did concede that "gross negligence" or "willful bad behavior" were grounds for a lawsuit.

The bill was eventually passed by a wide majority in both the House and Senate in March. Now that it has become law, it opens the door for spacecraft launches from Spaceport Camden in Camden County.

Camden County Administrator and Spaceport Camden Project lead Steve Howard said the new law will help send a message to the global space industry that "we are open for business.

"Commercial spaceflight is the next great space race. It is a $320 billion industry that offers tens of thousands of good, high paying jobs,” Howard said. “The passage of HB 1 by the General Assembly has already had immeasurable impact on Spaceport Camden...HB 1 put Georgia on the radar of the industry and Governor Deal’s signature only reinforces to those companies that Georgia wants their business.”

According to a release, Camden County is already working with Vector, an Arizona-based company founded by veterans of SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch.

“The signing of HB 1 not only represents the huge strides taken in developing space flight legislation, but also demonstrates the viability of Spaceport Camden to support Vector’s goal of conducting hundreds of launches a year,” said Jim Cantrell, co-founder and CEO of Vector.

County officials said they are hopeful Spaceport Camden will be a fully FAA-licensed launch site by 2018.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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