Florida passed a bill protecting space companies in case of injury or death of a crew member.
Passengers will have to sign a waiver stating they understand the risks before boarding a spaceship.
The bill comes as more billionaires are trying to make commercial space flight a reality.
Florida has signed a bill protecting the billionaire owners of space companies against civil lawsuits in case of the death or injury of a passenger or crew member.
Passengers will have to sign a waiver stating they understand the risks of spaceflight before boarding a spaceship, the bill states.
“Under Florida law, there is no liability for an injury to or death of a participant or crew in a spaceflight activity provided by a spaceflight entity if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of the spaceflight activity,” the bill states.
For private sector companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, the bill “has the potential to limit the cost of litigation to businesses engaging in spaceflight activities,” a senate analysis of the bill said.
The bill extends protections to private space companies
The Spaceflight Entity Liability bill, which was sent to Governor Ron DeSantis and passed the Florida Senate and House with little opposition, was adjusted to reflect “the evolution of spaceflight,” said Republican Sen. Tom Wright, the bill’s sponsor, per Florida Politics.
“Astronauts are no longer government astronauts. These are commercial crew,” said Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois at a March 9 hearing, per Florida Politics.
The new bill states that space flight remains “an extraordinarily dangerous condition” and people should take responsibility for the risks before boarding the rocket, the Senate bill analysis states.
The bill doesn’t protect the companies in case of “gross negligence”
Florida lawmakers have every motivation to protect the spaceflight industry, which contributes $17.7 billion in revenues to Florida’s economy, per Florida’s Aerospace and Spaceport Development Authority.
SpaceX and Blue Origin have their primary launch sites in Florida. Jeff Sharkey, a lobbyist representing SpaceX, also stood in support of the bill at a March 26 hearing, per Florida Politics.
Still, the bill doesn’t abrogate space companies from all responsibility. It states clearly that the company is still liable in case of gross negligence, if the company knew or should have known about dangerous conditions, or it intentionally tried to hurt or kill a crewmember.
Even in a case of negligence, the bill would be difficult to hold up in court, Mark Sundahl, director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University, told Gizmodo in an email.
The waiver, he said “assumes that there is ‘informed consent.’ It is questionable whether a passenger who is not familiar with the technology and history of spaceflight can truly be ‘informed’ as to the risks.”
More protections are needed as space tourism takes off
The bill comes in the wake of a boom in space tourism led by private companies.
Multi-millionaire and billionaire civilians are hitching rides to low earth orbit and outer space.
“The fear is that the estate of ultra-wealthy passengers could bring massive claims for hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue due to the life of the passenger being cut short,” said Sundahl, per Gizmodo.
“The industry is still in its early days and such liability might stunt the industry,” he said.
These include billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion mogul who has already flown to the International Space Station and purchased all the seats on an upcoming SpaceX Starship flight around the moon.
Read the original article on Business Insider