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Space Insurance Report

A number of risks specific to the space sector have been identified in this report, which explain why space insurance is important for all sector players including satellite manufacturers, operators, their customers and users of satellite services and data.

 The risk period in space insurance is divided into three main categories: pre-launch, launch and in-orbit. Apart from insurance policies covering these specific risk periods, arguably the most important, as it is the only mandatory type of insurance is third party liability insurance. Most governments have a cap on the damage that satellite operators are liable for. However, until very recently, UK satellite operators have had to accept unlimited third party liability (the government has set in motion a reform of the Outer Space Act to cap the unlimited liability to 60 million euros). Underwriting cycles are present in many lines of insurance. A 2012 publication investigated the possibility of such cycles in the space insurance market, as well as volatility. Statistical analysis suggested that claims may be volatile, capacity showed volatility and cyclicality, and cycles were also present in premium rates. 

Research into the current state of the market showed that despite 2013 experiencing the largest space insurance claim so far, the market is “soft” and more players are entering it.

Cubesats were discussed as they were mentioned in the consultation paper released in 2012 by the UK Space Agency regarding capping unlimited third party liability for UK satellite operators. Responses to the consultation and on the Cubesat forum were mixed, so it is unclear whether reducing or waiving the insurance requirement specifically for Cubesats and other nanosatellites would give the UK a competitive advantage. 

The report also provides an overview of risks to consider, in particular orbital and suborbital space tourism (suborbital space tourism vehicles will be insured on the aviation market), space debris, solar flares and cyber risk.

The full version of the report is available for download on _connect: http://tinyurl.com/nrgekw2



2 people have had something to say so far

Page 8 - Regulatory Framework and Third Party Liability
Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (resolution 2777 (XXVI), annex)—adopted on 29 November 1971, opened for signature on 29 March 1972, entered into force on 1 September 1972;

This treaty defines clearly in the Article II that the Launching State is absolutely liable to pay compensation for damage caused by the Licensee’s Space Object on the surface of the Earth or to aircraft in flight, which are usually the cost of the cleanup. (so called Scenario 1 of the Liability Convention of 1972).
Then, in the Article IV, its says that the Launching State is liable to pay compensation for damage caused by the Licensee’s Space Object in space only if the damage is due to its fault (fault liability standard in opposition to the strict liability standard for ground damage). This means that in the situation of an in-orbit collision between two Space Objects, a Launching State will be considered liable only if it can be shown that the damage caused was due to the fault of the Launching State or Launching States responsible for the launch of the Space Object as the case may be. (Scenario 2 of the Liability Convention of 1972).

In the fourth paragraph of the same section [To date ... C$3 million]. I think it is important to note that the only example we've got for in-orbit collision is with the collision of the defunct Russian Space Object (Cosmos 2251) and an operating US Space Object (Iridium 33) creating in total the 1,788 debris. Three years after, the two Launching States where still trying to blame each other, Russia by asserting that it did not have an obligation under international law to dispose of Cosmos 2251 after it became derelict; US by contending that it did not have an obligation to avoid the collision even if was aware that such a collision would occur.
Yet, still no claim for compensation has been filed by the owners of the Iridium 33 satellite.

Although we only have this unique example which could have triggered the Scenario 2 of the Liability Convention, because any claims have to be made from state to state via diplomatic channel, they would be overwhelmed by complex international commerce and politics.

Page 15 - CubeSat
I think we should not constraint the study to CubeSat only, which is a standard, but we should focus on Nano/Micro-Satellites in general (Up to 50Kg).
You mentioned that CubeSat are popular with Schools, Universities and Governments, although this is correct, they represent a high growth commercial opportunity as well. In the US for instance (where the in-orbit TPL insurance is not mandatory for this category of missions), companies such as Planet Labs or Spire are raising private investment ($160m for the first one and $25m for the later) to enter the Big Data and Business Intelligence market.

Page 21 - Conclusion
Although it is good to mention recent failures, I think it is very important to notice the paradigm shift for this small missions which are opening new downstream opportunities. To some extend we can mention Skybox Imaging who's been bought $500m by Google last year or Planet Labs recent $70m Series C to move into the applications market after using cubesat technologies as an enabler.

In addition, space insurance companies do not insure small satellites in the UK for TPL (only 2 SSTL spacecrafts out of the 42 launched 2 CubeSat have been licensed in the UK while we've got the 2 small satellite world leading organisations - i.e. SSTL and Clyde Space) as it is too expensive for start-ups and other countries take the liability on their behalf.
In addition, by waiving this in-orbit TPL requirements, we could not only enable this downstream opportunities happenning in the UK, but we could be opening up a new small sat market for asset or revenue insurance.
Posted on 27/01/15 09:27.
Further to the release of the Space Insurance Report, I would like to make a few comments, please see below.

David Wade
Space Underwriter
Atrium Space Insurance Consortium (ASIC)

Types of Cover:
• The report states “The launch period may be extended to end 180 days after launch or even up to 3 years after launch…”. There are a range of policy durations now available. Some operators only seek cover for the launch phase, covering from Intentional Ignition to Separation, whilst most operators seek to cover a period after separation. In most cases the Launch policy will cover launch plus the first year in orbit, which will include deployments, orbit raising, in-orbit testing as well as the first few months of operations. Many operators now chose to hedge their bets and purchase a number of policies of different durations. In this manner they can lock in today’s prices for part of the insurance coverage, but leave themselves with some flexibility on the rest of the insurance coverage in the event that insurance rates reduce. Durations of Launch plus 1 year; Launch plus 3 years; Launch plus 5 years are all available. There are even insurers offering Launch plus 10 years and Launch plus 15 years of cover for particular operators.
• Space policies are typically considered “all risks” policies. In such a policy practically every peril is covered. Only those specifically listed as excluded are not covered. You mention exclusions such as war and strikes but aspects such as gradual deterioration and mechanical breakdown are not excluded. These perils represent a large proportion of the claims we pay. We need to see an event during the period of insurance coverage which results in an impairment to the operation of the satellite. This event does not need to give rise to an immediate loss. For example, if there is an event that results in a component part degrading at a rate faster than anticipated and the satellite will fail at some point in the future but before the end of its stated life, this may be sufficient for an operator to present a claim. You also specifically mention the effects of radiation as an exclusion, but please not the typical exclusion covering radiation covers nuclear radiation or radioactive contamination but does go on to say that the exclusion does not apply for radiation naturally occurring in the space environment. With that in mind, the effect of space weather is typically covered by insurance.

Regulatory Framework and Third Party Liability
• You mention that a “Launching State shall be absolutely liable to pay compensation for damage caused by its space object on the surface of the Earth or to aircraft in flight” but do not mention that to claim compensation for any damage caused in orbit requires fault to be proven. This is a difficult task to complete and to date no claims have been brought under the Convention for in-orbit collisions.
• The points raised under this section are all relevant however I would suggest one of the big differences between the UK’s position and most other countries is the obligation for UK licensed operators to buy third party liability insurance for in-orbit operations. In the case of most other countries, TPL insurance is only required for launch, albeit in most cases the insurance policy will include up to a year in orbit as part of the cover. The obligation for UK based operators to continue purchasing TPL insurance for on-going operations is the aspect that I would say is the biggest disadvantage.

Space Debris
• At present the insured value of LEO satellites only amounts to approximately US$ 1.5 billion. The insured value of satellites in GEO is approximately US$ 25 billion. The risk that space debris poses therefore, whilst increasing, is still considered small in comparison to factors such as mechanical breakdown, electrical failures, etc. This could change dramatically in the coming years with the planned constellations proposed for LEO. Lloyd’s attempts to prepare for such eventualities by preparing a series of realistic disaster scenarios which are used to give insurers and Lloyd’s in particular an idea of what their worst case loss could be. We prepared some new space realistic disaster scenarios last year which came into effect on the 1st January 2015. The scenarios now include a space debris scenario for LEO satellites. The scenarios can be found at: www.lloyds.com/the-market/tools-and-resources/research/exposure-management/reali­stic-disaster-scenarios/rds-scenario-specification-2015

Solar Flares
• Whilst a number of satellites have seen severe damage due to space weather, very few insurance claims are linked solely to space weather. Analysis of our own database of over 3000 anomalies suggests that space weather is responsible for up to 25% of satellite anomalies but the majority of these are SEU’s which simply require a reset. No physical damage results. With that in mind, whilst 25% of anomalies are linked to space weather less than 3% of the space insurance claims paid over the past 25 years have been linked to space weather. Space weather continues to be a peril that insurers need to consider and understand, especially with the move to all electric satellites which will spend a great length of time completing orbit raising and in some cases traversing the radiation belts and slot region.

Cyber Risks
• Cyber is an emerging risk in many areas of insurance. As you correctly identify, satellites are considered to be a high profile target. That said, in most cases existing insurance policies have an exclusion excluding losses arising from acts of terrorism or unlawful interference or wrongful exercise of control. This is an area of study at present to consider if coverage could be provided to satellite operators in the future and what aspects insurers would need to understand to be able to provide such coverage.

• Please note that as identified in a Space News article (see http://spacenews.com/4265emoticonrbital-sciences-entitled-to-partial-nasa-payment-for-an­tares-failure/), the Antares vehicle was not under-insured. The structure of the CRS contracts sees milestone payments being made. By the time of launch only the mission success milestone of approximately US$50m was outstanding and this was the amount insured in the space insurance market.
Posted on 29/01/15 09:32.

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