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Satellite insurance a catastrophe

January 5, 2021

The specialist insurance companies who provide launch and ‘in use’ cover for satellites have had another disastrous year.

One report says that space insurance underwriters have had their third year of reporting losses despite increases since 2019 of premiums to cover key aspects of the launch and periods in orbit of satellites.

Space Intel Report (SIR) says that while space insurance has been in general a good business over the past 20 years, and where only six years have seen losses, there are now significant increases in premiums to help balance the books. This, says SIR, appears to be on track to return the market to equilibrium.

Analysis of the sector shows that in 2020 while it generated premiums of $460.5 million it paid out $500.3 million in claims. Moreover, 2020 saw some 52 per cent of launches were uninsured according to data from insurance giant AXA XL. The company says that some operators separate the launch risks from in-orbit cover. But if 2020 was bad then 2019 was worse. Insurers paid out about $800 million in claims on premiums received of just $550 million.

AXA also gives an indication as to the value of total coverage available for a single launch of a geostationary satellite. This is a staggering $600 million or so, per launch plus in-orbit risks. However, only a few years back it was more than $700 million for the same batch of cover.

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