House passes two bills relating to aerospace

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

While fiscal cliff solutions commanded the limelight last week, those in the aerospace corridor watched as two others passed through Congress.

The death of Neil Armstrong last fall sent waves of grief and reflection through leaders in the local aerospace and technical communities — virtually all of whom had been in some way inspired by the legend, and many of whom had even worked with him.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy and several congressional colleagues put forward a bill to honor Armstrong’s memory by having the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center redesignated in his name. The aeronautical test ranges will now carry Hugh L. Dryden’s name.

House representatives unanimously passed the bill on Jan. 1.

“This bill recognizes the achievements of Neil Armstrong in aerospace travel and space exploration and emphasizes his affiliation with Kern County,” said McCarthy.

“He was an American hero who began his career as a test pilot here and later trained for his historic astronaut career right here in Eastern Kern. Later in life, he oversaw aeronautical research programs here and piloted the advances in technology that continue to this day.”

The bill still awaits a vote in the Senate.

A bill that provides indemnification, however, has now passed through both houses of Congress — extending for one year a measure of protection for the private spaceflight industry.

McCarthy met early last year with Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stuart Witt, along with other industry leaders and elected officials, to discuss the need for protection of private companies that have taken up the torch of low-orbit space operations since those of NASA have wound down.

The bill was amended in the Senate to shorten the two-year extension to one, allowing the current system to remain in place “while the Federal Aviation Administration conducts a review of the underlying formula for calculating probable levels of loss.”

“Government risk-sharing serves an important role in the commercial space industry by ensuring companies don’t have to bet the farm on every launch, and it does so at no cost to the taxpayers,” said Witt, who is also chair of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

“We thank the members in the House and the Senate who worked through the holidays to pass this important legislation.”

Alex Saltman, CSF executive director, said that he believes the New Year will bring new accomplishments and excitement in commercial spaceflight. “Congress will be addressing many policy issues affecting the industry, and we will continue to work toward a long-term risk-sharing provision that would provide certainty to a growing industry.”

Story First Published: 2013-01-09