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Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill to help space industry in California

September 21, 2012 | 10:15 am


Just minutes before the retired space shuttle Endeavour was flown over the state Capitol on its way to a Los Angeles museum, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he signed legislation to give a boost to the commercial space-travel industry in California.

Brown signed AB 2243, which limits liability for spaceflight companies.

"California aerospace pioneers like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and the Spaceship Company are blazing a path to the stars with commercial space travel," Brown said in a statement. "This bill allows commercial space-travel companies to innovate and explore without the worry of excessive liability."

The bill was authored by Assemblyman Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale), whose father, William J. "Pete" Knight, was a legislator and Air Force test pilot. The measure provides companies with qualified immunity from liability for injuries suffered by a spaceflight participant.

That will help companies including Virgin Galactic, which hopes to charge the public for brief flights into space.

"California has long been known as a place that breaks down barriers and fosters innovation -- from social movements like environmentalism to the start-up culture of Silicon Valley," Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said in a statement released by Brown's office. "The teams at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company are forging entirely new paths in travel, science and exploration, and this legislation will ensure that California continues to be a place that looks forward -- and not back."


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Photo: George T. Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic and the Spaceship Company addresses the audience standing in front of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo at the Mojave Air and Space Port last year. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times