The Rocky Mountain high is poised to get even higher. On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the "Spaceflight Entity Limited Liability" bill (SB12-035) to help grow Colorado's spaceflight industry.
Fox31 reports that the bill, sponsored by Sen. Mary Hodge and Rep. Bob Gardner, provides the legal protections necessary for spaceflight companies to operate without fear of excessive lawsuits from participants in spaceflight activities.
Colorado has the second largest aerospace workforce in the U.S. and is "uniquely positioned to become a national and international leader in horizontal take-off commercial spaceflight," the bill states. Additionally, eight of the nation's top aerospace contractors already have operations in Colorado and Denver alone has the highest concentration of private sector aerospace employment in the country.
Hickenlooper has big hopes for Colorado's commercial spaceflight industry. Toward the end of 2011, he began working with the Federal Aviation Administration to arrange for a spaceport designation in the Front Range, the Associated Press reported.
The spaceport plan would transform the Front Range Airport, just six miles from DIA, into a spaceport where space craft could launch tourists and other commercial passengers into space, according to the Denver Business Journal. Hickenlooper made the spaceport announcement in December 2011 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and said this to to the audience comprised of aerospace industry members:
These are the opportunities, like cell phones in the early 1990s, that seem far fetched but may not be all that far away. The potential here is huge.
Although it does sound very future-forward, some states like New Mexico have already built a similar facility in Spaceport America. And the FAA is expecting big things from space tourism as well, predicting that it will become a billion-dollar industry within a decade.
Emerging technology like rocket powered space craft that launch vertically, rather than horizontally, would allow for relatively affordable space tourism as well as extraordinarily fast trips to points on Earth, The Denver Post reports. "In an hour and a half, you can be in Singapore," executive president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp Tom Clark said.
Colorado is viewed as a good fit due to it being the home to over one hundred aerospace companies, programs and military aerospace command centers. In terms of a state space economies, Colorado just passed Florida, and is now second only to California.
LOOK: Space travel of the future: