Legislature prepares for space and flying vehicles

What was once the domain of science fiction could be here sooner than you think.

Outer space travel and flying cars may sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, but Texas legislators are taking significant steps today to seize the opportunities these fast-growing multi-trillion-dollar industries present.

A few key bills under consideration this year include:

The Texas House of Representatives is expected to take up HB 3447 on Tuesday, April 25.

“The establishment of the Texas Space Commission is a critical step in providing the resources, government cooperation and workforce necessary to make Texas the center of the rapidly growing space industry,” said Texas 2036 Policy Analyst Mitrah Avini in testimony last month to the House State Affairs Committee.

The Advanced Air Mobility Advisory Committee would build on work already underway from the last legislative session on urban air mobility. Some experts believe that flying air car technology could make significant advances as soon as three years from now.

SB 2144 has passed the Texas Senate and was referred to the House Transportation Committee last week.

Companies, entrepreneurs and higher education institutions across the state are already working to advance various aspects of the burgeoning aerospace industry. By 2040, the global space industry could reach $1 trillion and the autonomous urban aircraft industry could reach $1.5 trillion.

The roots of a thriving commercial aerospace industry are already in place across all of Texas.

In North Texas, for example, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Bell Flight and Boeing anchor the space sector there. The University of Texas at Arlington, the University of North Texas and Tarrant County Community College offer aerospace and engineering programs and play an important role in the classroom-to-workforce pipeline. In addition, NASA-based programs inspire Texas K-12 students to study STEM programs and engineering.

In West Texas, Blue Origin operates its high-profile spaceport. Houston continues to lead in space exploration, paced by NASA’s Johnson Space Center that has served as a hub for spaceflight for more than 60 years.

The space sector has also established itself in Brownsville, where SpaceX has located its spaceport, and Austin, where companies like Firefly Aerospace are thriving. In addition, the U.S. Space Force has provided grants to the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso to support the research and development of the next generation of workers in this field.

Add it all up, and the aerospace sector is already contributing mightily to the Texas economy. NASA estimates that its economic output alone in Texas totaled $9.3 billion in fiscal year 2021.

To help prepare that future space workforce, Texas legislators are also exploring ways to encourage more students to pursue Algebra I as early as eighth grade, take advanced math courses no matter where they live in Texas, and enroll in high-quality tutoring when students need extra help to remain on grade level.

Texas already faces intense competition from other states, such as Florida, Colorado and Alabama, as well as other nations across the globe, to lead the space-age economy. Now is the time for Texas to boldly go where no state has gone before.

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