New law requires return of spacecraft parts
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket leaves Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX Falcon 9 2
The law rockets in as as more companies blasting off at Cape Canaveral employ reusable gear.

Rocket parts falling from the sky that land in Florida now remain the property of rocket companies that built them. That’s a change that goes into effect Thursday after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new bill into law.

The Senate during the Legislative Session approved HB 221, the Recovery of Spaceflight Assets Act, which the House approved in April.

With DeSantis’ signature, the law now requires Florida residents who find fallen spacecraft parts to alert law enforcement and then to allow authorities and the rocket companies come onto their properties to retrieve them.

Sen. Tom Wright, a Port Orange Republican, sponsored the Senate version. After the Senate accepted HB 221 to replace his SB 936, Wright oversaw its quick, 38-0 passage. There was no discussion and no dissent.

The bill guarantees 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. In April, 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.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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