VIRGIN Galactic is this week due to start paying rent on a publicly funded spaceport in the United States, but a legal snare could jeopardise the first passenger trips.
The spaceport, near the New Mexico city of Truth or Consequences, is grappling with local lawmakers to secure new rules on informed consent and ensure Virgin’s maiden flights can take off in late 2013 or early 2014. While space flight operators are already protected in the event of an accident, spacecraft manufacturers including Virgin are uncertain about their liability and the firm has hinted it could withdraw if the law is not clarified.
It begins to accrue rent on the completed site from this week, bringing the spaceport’s financial future to the foreground. A local PR agency recently set up a Save Our Spaceport website to try to speed up a change in the law.