Local News

Tuesday, Apr 29 2014 06:47 PM

Governor signs another pro-aerospace bill

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    By Bill Deaver/ Special to The Californian

    Virgin Galactic successfully completed its third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reuseable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, on Jan. 10, 2014 in Mojave. Here the spaceship and extra chase plane circle for landing.

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BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

Supporters of aerospace in eastern Kern County are applauding Gov. Jerry Brown who on Tuesday signed a bill providing tax incentives to the burgeoning private space industry.

Assembly Bill 777, authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, provides a 10-year property tax break to private space firms such as Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace and Masten Space Systems, each of which have facilities at Mojave Air and Space Port, located just 60 miles east of Bakersfield. Several Southern California firms, such as Hawthorne-based SpaceX and Boeing's California operations, are also expected to benefit from the measure.

Stu Witt, general manager of the space port in Mojave, said he's been encouraging the passage of the bill for months. He thanked Muratsuchi and state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, for their leadership.

"One person we need to applaud is Gov. Brown," Witt said. "Gov. Brown gets it."

The bill, designed to help fuel California's efforts to become a hub for the still-fledgling commercial space industry, comes on the heels of AB 2243, the Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act.

Signed by Brown in September 2012 -- against the wishes of trial lawyers -- the law provides liability protections for companies in the state, should any spaceflight participant who has acknowledged the risks be injured during spaceflight activities.

In summer 2012, when Mojave-based XCOR announced it would expand its operations to Texas, some local observers characterized the move as an avoidable economic loss to Kern County and the state as a whole. XCOR is a manufacturer of reusable rocket engines and the developer of a suborbital space plane designed to carry two persons to the edge of space.

Whether the two measures end potential moves by more California's aerospace companies to other states remains to be seen.

But Witt, whose Mojave facility boasts 17 space companies and 19 test sites, said passage of the two bills shows California is serious about supporting and retaining private space industries throughout the state.

"Finally, it's a reason to stay in California," Witt said. "This will have a retention effect in Kern County."

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