DeSantis signs bill limiting liabilities of private spaceflight companies

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed into law a spaceflight bill that protects companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin from legal liability if crewmembers or passengers are injured or killed during missions.

The Spaceflight Entity Liability bill, or CS/SB 1318, was one of 27 bills he signed a day after launching his campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination during an event on Twitter with its owner, Elon Musk, who is also the CEO of SpaceX.

The new law effectively shields SpaceX and other commercial space companies from lawsuits in the event that anyone on their rockets or capsules are seriously hurt or killed.

The bill now requires crewmembers and passengers to acknowledge the risks of spaceflight by signing a waiver that contains the following statement: “WARNING: 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 spaceflight activity.”

Injuries may include damage to land, people, equipment and animals, in addition to “the potential for you to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury or death,” according to the bill.

An analysis of the bill by the Florida Senate found that it “has the potential to limit the cost of litigation to businesses engaging in spaceflight activities.”

Florida’s “Space Coast,” or the area around NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, has been a hot spot of commercial space activity, as companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin look to expand launch services for both the government and the private sector.

Aerospace activities contribute about $17.7 billion in revenue to Florida’s economy, according to Space Florida, a government agency that aims to promote aerospace economic development across the state.

The Spaceflight Entity Liability bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom Wright, and passed unanimously in the state Senate and with little debate in the Florida House.

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