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Did You Find A Rocket Part? New Bill Strengthens Protections For Spaceflight Hardware Owners

Fisherman Dave Stokes poses with SpaceX parachutes and hardware he recovered off the coast of Daytona Beach. Photo: Sea Lover Fishing / YouTube
Fisherman Dave Stokes poses with SpaceX parachutes and hardware he recovered off the coast of Daytona Beach. Photo: Sea Lover Fishing / YouTube

A bill is heading to the floor of the Florida house, aimed at protecting ownership of rocket parts that might fall from the sky.

The House bill filed by Merritt Island Republican representative Tyler Sirois protects pieces of commercial rocket hardware, ensuring private companies remain the owner of any pieces that might be recovered by private citizens.

As companies focus on reusability, some of these rocket parts like parachutes and nose cones fall into the ocean. Last year, a fisherman recovered SpaceX’s parachutes and capsule hardware off the coast of Daytona Beach.

“As Florida continues to lead the nation in commercial aerospace, our laws need to evolve with the growing and unique demands of this industry,” said Sirois. “The recovery of spaceflight debris is an increasingly common issue in Florida. The return of these materials is necessary to evaluate vehicle safety and performance.”

The bill strengthens legal protections of the company’s ownership of the items like parachutes, hatches and fairings. The law would require anyone who finds spaceflight hardware to contact law enforcement.

The proposed legislation makes attempting to sell or misrepresent ownership of the hardware a crime. and gives law enforcement the authority to recover missing hardware.

A companion bill in the Senate, sponsored by Republican state Senator Tom Wright of New Smyrna Beach, has one more committee stop before heading to the floor. “This legislation is yet another demonstration of Florida’s commitment to the commercial aerospace industry,” said Sirois.

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.