By The Associated Press - Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 0 Comments
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday signed into law liability-waiving legislation aimed…
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday signed into law liability-waiving legislation aimed at saving the state’s nearly quarter-billion-dollar investment in a futuristic spaceport and retaining its anchor tenant, British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
The new law exempts spacecraft parts suppliers from liability lawsuits by passengers. Lawmakers had previously exempted spacecraft operators from liability, but some space companies began passing up the New Mexico spaceport in favour of states that had extended those protections to suppliers.
Martinez said in a statement after a signing ceremony at the nearly complete $209 million project in southern New Mexico that her administration was “not only reaffirming the major commitment New Mexicans have made to Spaceport America but we now have an even stronger opportunity to grow the number of commercial space jobs at the spaceport and across our state. This legislation will prevent lawsuit abuse and make it easier for businesses related to the space travel industry to thrive and succeed right here in New Mexico.”
Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America officials have been fighting for years to get the legislation enacted, saying commercial space companies have passed over New Mexico in favour of states with more lenient liability exemptions.
Virgin Galactic had hinted last year it might abandon plans to launch its $200,000 per-person space flights from New Mexico if the bill failed again this year.
In January, Virgin began paying its $1 million-a-year rent. But it told the state it was doing so only under protest and without making a commitment to some of the other provisions of its long-term lease. Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides last month said the company and the state still had a “laundry list” of issues to resolve.
Virgin Galactic issued a statement Tuesday saying it “has been committed to the success of the Spaceport since it signed the original deal with the state.”
The company also said “all stakeholders must now turn their attention to the future and to recruiting additional companies to the spaceport to fulfil its full potential and maximize new job growth.”
Whitesides, in an interview last year, said it was “very concerning” that other space companies were not coming to the spaceport. Virgin Galactic, he said, signed up for a “healthy spaceport” with multiple businesses that could divide the costs.
Texas, Florida and Colorado are among several states developing spaceports. Most are revamping old airports or other facilities, but New Mexico’s is unique because it is the first to be built from scratch.
Spaceport Executive Director Christine Anderson said Tuesday that she hoped the new law, as well as commercial tax breaks passed as part of a last-minute deal between the Legislature and Martinez, will strengthen her recruitment efforts.
“With this protection enacted, NMSA is now ready and able to get back to the business of building the commercial space industry here in New Mexico,” Anderson said in a statement issued by Martinez’s office.
By Mika Rekai - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:36 AM - 0 Comments
Quebec tourism agency Uniktour preparing to compete with Virgin Galactic for would-be astronauts
Canadians who dream of going to the final frontier will soon be able to find cheaper flights. Last week, Quebec tourism agency Uniktour announced it will be collaborating with Space Expedition Corp. and XCOR Aerospace to offer private space travel by 2014. Uniktour will be selling two different space packages, for $95,000 and $100,000, which includes hotel stays and astronaut training. That’s about half the price of the flights offered by main rival Virgin Galactic.
Trips booked via Uniktour will blast off from California’s Mojave desert and the Caribbean island of Curaçao. Unlike Virgin, which plans to take six tourists into space once a day, Space Expedition will be taking one tourist into space four times a day. Because the shuttle is so small, the tourist will be seated like a co-pilot. The flights will last about an hour, with several minutes spent at the edge of space, 100 km up: just long enough for passengers to experience weightlessness while admiring the blackness of space and the curvature of the Earth.
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 1:20 PM - 8 Comments
How the wealthy are shooting for the stars—privately
On Aug. 24, an unmanned Russian cargo spaceship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) crashed in eastern Russia, sent down by engine failure in its Soyuz carrier rocket. Russia temporarily grounded all launches to the ISS to investigate, but the crash underlined a pressing problem: since the U.S. retired its aging fleet of space shuttles in July, any astronaut or cargo heading to the space station has no choice but to hitch a ride with Russia. For a ride on the Soyuz, NASA pays about $56 million per seat—and the cost will go up to $62.7 million in 2014.
It must be a blow to American pride. The U.S. doesn’t want to rely on Russian rockets forever, and other nations like China are pushing ahead with ambitious space programs. But NASA doesn’t plan on building more shuttles. The U.S. space agency is shifting its focus to deep space exploration, and intends to buy rides into low Earth orbit (where the space station is) from private companies instead.
Like a commercial airline, these companies will sell rides not only to NASA, but to academics, businesses, and the curious public, too. A handful of ultra-wealthy entrepreneurs are backing some of the most ambitious ventures in space travel. SpaceX was launched by Elon Musk, who co-founded PayPal and is CEO of Tesla Motors; Blue Origin comes from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; and Virgin Galactic is an offshoot of Virgin Group, founded by Sir Richard Branson. New Mexico is completing a taxpayer-financed commercial space terminal, Spaceport America, with Virgin Galactic as its anchor tenant.