Right now I am in Lincoln, Nebraska, getting ready for a Round Table discussion at the 5th annual Space Law Conference. I do not have a law degree, I asked why they wanted me. The best I can figure is they want their attendees to get a sense of the big picture in the emerging commercial space industry. Of course, the 2010 US Space Policy is essential reading for space lawyers. International Trafficking and Arms Regulation (ITAR) documents are a must, all ramifications far beyond what I can address. Policy documents, regulations, brother, I bet I just lost half my readers! But I think as investors, yes, New Mexicans are investors, we probably want to know if we are following best practices to assure ourselves, our spaceport will be safe and other spaceports will want to work with us.
There is a large body of regulation involved in the airline industry, some of it will move directly over into the commercial space industry to assure initially some of what we have learned about airport safety, passenger safety, and public safety will be retained.
An airport and a spaceport have runways, fuel, and cargo. The spaceport and airport runways will be identified by their directional coordinates, marked the same, and standards for lighting will be the same. But, spaceports will handle different fuels, and vehicles will be licensed differently. Vehicles will fly through the National Air Space (the NAS) to get to space. The air traffic system hands off an aircraft for space travel will likely be similar to how we handled the shuttle transitions through the air space.
There is a body of knowledge or Best Practices that have evolved over the past 20 years at places like the Mojave Air and Spaceport, Kennedy Space Center, and other spaceports including Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, and even Star City in Russia where cosmonauts and astronauts train. Soon, all US astronauts will fly to the International Space Station from Russia once we stop flying the shuttle.
There is growing anticipation as the commercial space industry grows that we begin to educate ourselves across many disciplines, including space law. For example, New Mexico has passed Informed Consent legislation to help indemnify the state in the event of a spaceflight accident. Essentially, Virgin Galactic passengers must acknowledge they know they are participating in a high risk activity, and agree to hold the state harmless in the event of an accident. Other states have similar legislation.
In previous articles I have mentioned the economic benefits of space tourism on our economy. We can see it right now. Our new Executive Director of Spaceport America, Chris Anderson, will be speaking to a sold out audience at the Chamber luncheon on Thursday at the Farm and Ranch. Who benefits when a Chamber of Commerce luncheon is sold out? All of us gain a bit. I know of a number of people will be coming from out of town to meet Chris and listen to her speak. Students will attend from NMSU, as well as faculty. The benefits to our technical workforce will continue to grow as we evolve this project. And so now, those involved in the Government Department at NMSU, students in the policy and international regulatory environment will also have the potential to take a leadership role in a new industry as we go forward. So, here I go. I have prepared for this conference, on and off for a year. Beside me is Volume 35 of the Space Law Journal. Today I read one more list of considerations for spaceports who will deal with international travelers, and last week I attended a conference on keeping communications secure in cyber space. All of these areas touch on our little community as we take on this industry. There is no doubt, we are fortunate to have 3 research universities in our state. We will need them all to create the environment for success.
I hear it time after time; New Mexico has really stepped up in these times and has been the major global beneficiary. Well, I am not sure why they want me at this Law Conference, but I know why I am here. I will learn, tell them about New Mexico, and hope they get engaged to help this industry proposer.