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Gov. Hickenlooper signs bill aimed at expansion of spaceflight industry

Hendrik Sybrandy | FOX31 Denver

DENVER — Colorado’s space economy got an added boost Thursday when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill limiting the liability of companies operating at the state’s proposed new Spaceport.

Colorado is pursuing a spaceport designation for Front Range Airport with the Federal Aviation Administration. Senate Bill 35 limits the legal exposure for companies conducting spaceflights at the facility.

The new law allows Colorado to remain competitive with other states that are also planning spaceports.

“A spaceport (allows) us to conceive of flying to Australia in a couple of hours, and that really does begin to revolutionize how we think … not just travel, but how we do business,” said Hickenlooper during a speech at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Colorado currently ranks second among all states in the number of space-related jobs. It’s made space a major focus of its economic development efforts.

“So the prospects run everything from satellite imagery to interplanetary vehicles to near space to all the software and I.T., global positioning,” said Tom Clark, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation C.E.O. “It’s really a diverse industry.”

Among the major players in the field is Lockheed Martin which, among other things, is currently assembling four new GPS-3 satellites.

“We get into a manufacturing floor and assemble those satellites, get ‘em ready for the Air Force, send them to Florida, launch them up and then billions of people use them every single day,” said Michael Friedman, a Lockheed Martin spokesman. Friedman said there’s more and more demand for space-related products and services.

“A whole host of services that people take for granted today come from space,” Friedman said. “So the more it gets fused into the fabric of civilization the more demand there is for space.”

And, those promoting Colorado’s economy hope, more jobs will be created.