New Law Allows Space Tourism Companies to Develop

It was signed into effect in New Mexico

  Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo space launch system
Representatives of companies that are currently actively involved in achieving manned, commercial suborbital flight capabilities salute a new set of laws that could make their jobs a lot easier. The officials say that the new piece of legislation that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed into effect on February 27 will have the same effect for this industry as the Warsaw Convention did for the air transport industry. Basically, the document says that the company providing the services cannot be held accountable for the loss of lives that may result from accidents – except for the instances when it's found responsible of negligence, or inappropriate conduct.

The President of Virgin Galactic, Will Whitehorn, applauded this new decision about a week ago, saying that passengers should sign a waiver before boarding an edge-of-space-bound airplane. All people should know that, just as in the case of a shuttle launch, or any other rocket, going so far up is still very risky. He adds that the companies actively trying to make this industry flourish should not be crippled with lawsuits in case something happens that is not their direct fault. Though it may not seem like much, the issue of insurance was holding the industry back considerably, others say as well.

“This helps give us a really solid insurance foundation [for the space industry]. It includes the principle of informed consent. Participants will be required to sign a waiver before flight,” Whitehorn is quoted as saying at the World Space Risk Forum. The Virgin Galactic President also said that the new bill, which is called the Space Flight Informed Consent Act, will help put the commercial space industry on par with companies that provide guided trips to Mount Everest. The difference is that customers getting onboard space-bound planes are most likely to be very influential men and women, with a high net worth, and also very likely to be still active in their respective industries, Space reports.

In the law, it is stated that the company cannot be sued, or otherwise held responsible, for the death of a participant, provided that said death occurred on account of the inherent risks of spaceflight. Future space tourists also need to sign a waiver, which in part says: “I understand and acknowledge that under New Mexico law, there is no liability for injury to or death sustained by a participant in a space flight activity provided by a space flight entity if the injury or death results from the inherent risks of the space flight activity. Injuries caused by the inherent risks of space flight activities may include, among others, death, bodily injury, emotional injury or property damage. I assume all risk of participating in this space flight activity.”

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By    10 Mar 2010, 07:40 GMT