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California Vies For New Space Industry

Leaving the planet is worth the risk, he said. Without incentives like limiting the ability of customers and family members to sue, he said the opportunity would never be open to him.

"I'm not under the impression that it's as safe as flying on an airliner or anything remotely like that," he said. "But I do feel like it's the safest way to go to space right now."

In April, Virgin Galactic's space ship completed its first powered flight, as its rocket engine burned for 16 seconds, propelling the ship to an altitude of 55,000 feet as it broke the sound barrier. The company expects to conduct flight testing this year and send people into space soon thereafter.

Other companies are also working to launch people beyond the earth's atmosphere. Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX is already ferrying cargo to the International Space Station. Last year, SpaceX signed an agreement with Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace, which is designing inflatable space stations for research and maybe even tourists. SpaceX and other companies will provide the transportation â¿¿ like airlines â¿¿ and Bigelow the place to stay.

Regulatory and economic incentives play a big role in where companies choose to do business, said Andrew Nelson, the chief operating officer of XCOR, which is pursuing space tourism and hoping to conduct flight tests for its Lynx spaceship this year.

Last year, the company â¿¿ which operates at Mojave Air and Spaceport in Southern California â¿¿ announced it would place a research and development center and corporate headquarters in Midland, Texas, which offered economic incentives and an attractive regulatory environment, including shielding XCOR's suppliers from lawsuits.

Nelson said the company passed over Virginia, Florida, Oklahoma and California. XCOR expects the facility will create jobs and boost the local economy by millions of dollars. He said since California doesn't shield the company's supply chain and could not offer economic incentives, XCOR ruled the state out despite its talented workforce. The company will still have a smaller operation at Mojave and would consider doing more in the state if Knight's bill is enacted.

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