In Florida, rocket parts that fall from the sky would remain the property of the rocket companies that built them, under a bill now heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s desk.
With DeSantis’ signature, the bill would require Florida residents who find fallen spacecraft parts to alert law enforcement and then to let law enforcement and the rocket companies come onto their properties to retrieve them.
Republican Sen. Tom Wright of Port Orange sponsored the Senate version. After the Senate accepted HB 221 to replace his SB 936, Wright oversaw its quick, 38-0 passage on Monday. There was no discussion and no dissent.
The bill would offer official ownership protections for the growing trend in the rocket business of companies recovering, restoring, and reusing all sorts of spacecraft parts, from the booster rockets, to capsules, to smaller, more tactical parts like parachutes and fairings.
That’s particularly critical in Florida where companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are launching, or planning to launch, their rockets from Cape Canaveral. Just last Friday, SpaceX sent four astronauts to the International Space Station reusing recycled boosters and a recycled capsule launched from Kennedy Space Center.
Wright’s measure and Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois‘ House version have seen only limited dissent as they’ve moved through committees and floor discussions. One point shared at least in principle by Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who voted against the measure, and Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo, who did not vote against either bill, is concern over the bill’s requirements that private citizens report found parts, and then allow private companies to come onto their properties to retrieve them.
Citizens face criminal charges, possibly felony grand theft, if they fail to do so.
Wright assured Pizzo and the Senate Appropriations Committee last week that the concern is for large, clearly marked components, not smaller pieces that might be of uncertain origin.