Space Buddies? FL Gov DeSantis Signs Bill Protecting Aero Companies Like Elon Musk's SpaceX From Liability

(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Thursday that provides liability protections to public and private space companies operating in the state. The move came the day after DeSantis announced his candidacy for the presidency during a Twitter Spaces session hosted by Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX.


The bill, known as CS/SB 1318, Spaceflight Entity Liability, aims to provide immunity to spaceflight entities in certain circumstances, protecting them from liability in the event of injuries or deaths of participants or crew members during spaceflight activities. The new law requires space companies to have crew members sign a warning statement and waiver acknowledging the very obvious risks involved in launching oneself off the planet. The law takes effect on July 1. SpaceX lobbied throughout the legislative process, alongside other industry stakeholders including Boeing, Space Florida, and Florida Rising.  

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The required warning statement also outlines other potential risks involved in spaceflight, including damage to land, equipment, and animals. The legislation continues to hold space companies liable for acts of gross negligence, willful disregard for safety, intentional injury to crew members, and prior knowledge of extraordinarily dangerous conditions.

The law requires, at minimum, that companies include this text in consent waivers:

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 caused by spaceflight activities may include, among others, injury to land, equipment, persons, and animals, as well as the potential for you to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury or death. You are assuming the risk of participating in this spaceflight activity.


Florida’s Cape Canaveral played a role in space history as the main launch site during the space race, including the first U.S. satellite launch and the lunar landing. Today, Florida boasts over 17,144 aerospace-related companies, contributing over $19 billion to the state’s economy.

The bill not only offers new protections to Musk’s SpaceX but also to others including Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos. The billionaire tech moguls are currently engaged in their private space race, with SpaceX aiming to launch 100 orbital flights in 2023. In 2022, SpaceX set a record for launching a single vehicle type, the Falcon 9 rocket, the most times in a year. 

Despite recent successes, SpaceX faced a setback on April 20 when their Starship rocket exploded over the Gulf of Mexico shortly after takeoff due to an engine malfunction. While the test was deemed a success in terms of achieving its primary objective, the explosion resulted in the destruction of Space X’s private launchpad and the spread of debris and particulate matter over Boca Chica, Texas.

As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded the SpaceX Starship Super Heavy launch program, but on Friday Musk tweeted that launchpad upgrades should take around a month, followed by a month of testing, leading up to the second flight of Starship. Environmental groups are suing the FAA for regulatory negligence resulting in ecological impacts from the Starship’s explosion.


In light of the new legislation, SpaceX conducted a Friday launch of Falcon 9 from the SLC-40 site in Florida. The bill’s signing by Governor DeSantis demonstrates his commitment to a favorable regulatory environment in the state. 


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