Space bill could help regional industry

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

A bill that could help protect private industry in the High Desert’s aerospace corridor was passed Monday, by a vote of 376-5, in the House of Representatives. The Space Launch Liability Indemnifi-cation Extension Act would continue for one year the risk-sharing and liability structure in an effort to foster a competitive environment for the U.S. commercial space industry.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt have been collaborating on the issue in an effort to protect local jobs, as well as regional contributions to the advancement of aerospace capabilities.

McCarthy told the News Review in January 2012, when the issue previously came before the House, that it was important to establish regulation based on actual risks. Witt also pointed out at the time that the provision the private sector was hoping to procure was the same as that already enjoyed by government agencies.

Each released statements Monday afternoon celebrating the successful passage of the extension in the House.

“Today, the House acted to ensure that America’s commercial space industry remains competitive in an increasing global market and continues to create high-tech American manufacturing jobs,” said McCarthy.

“I am proud that the Mojave Air and Space Port, NASA Dryden and East Kern County are leading the way in developing the future of American space travel.”

“In my testimony to the House Science, Technology and Space Committee on Nov. 20, my panelists and I called on Congress to create an environment of legislative certainty by permanently extending the liability indemnification extension,” said Witt.

“For 20 years the private sector has purchased launch insurance up to established limits set by the FAA for each launch. In this 20-year-period, the immunity cap provided by the federal government has not been needed.

“When a policy is working this well and keeps the U.S. launch industry competitive, it should be continued.”

He lauded the efforts of McCarthy and other congressmen who have been working to find a way to continue the policy while Witt and other members of industry continue to push for a longer indemnification, as an element of a larger space policy package, in the next legislative session.

According to the Space Politics blog, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) introduced a bill at the same time that would provide a three-year extension for the indemnification. The Senate has not yet taken action on the bill.

Story First Published: 2013-12-04