The Evolution and Future of Space Insurance

By Katharine M. Nohr, J.D.

The final frontier is not just a playground for astronauts, scientists, and billionaires but also a complex arena where risk meets innovation. As humanity’s endeavors in outer space become more ambitious, encompassing everything from satellite launches to space tourism, the role of insurance in mitigating the financial risks associated with these ventures has never been more critical.

Currently, we are International Association of Insurance Professionals, rather than Intergalactic Association of Insurance Professionals. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t venture beyond planet Earth and consider space insurance. 

The Space Race in 2024 and Beyond

The modern space race, contrasting sharply with the Cold War-era competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, features prominent individuals and their private companies competing alongside and sometimes in partnership with government agencies. Two of the most notable figures in this new era are Elon Musk, with his company SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin. Other prominent figures who have gained international attention for their space exploration efforts are Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Galactic, which aims to offer commercial spaceflights for tourists, making space travel accessible to more people.

Robert Bigelow, the founder of Bigelow Aerospace, is focused on developing expandable space habitat technology. Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire and founder of Zozotown, has partnered with SpaceX for a planned trip around the Moon aboard the Starship spacecraft. His project, dearMoon, aims to take artists and creatives on a lunar journey to inspire their work. Jared Isaacman, an entrepreneur and pilot, funded the Inspiration4 mission aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, which was the first all-civilian spaceflight to orbit Earth. His involvement underscores the growing trend of private individuals funding and participating in space missions.

Government agencies continue their quests in space. NASA and other national space agencies like Roscosmos (Russia), ESA (Europe), CNSA (China), and ISRO (India) have decades of experience in space exploration, but their approaches have traditionally been slower and more bureaucratic than the individuals mentioned above. It should be noted that there has been collaboration between private entities and government to advance their shared interests, that have significant and varied risks for which they seek insurance.

The Spectrum of Space Insurance

Space insurance is a specialized field designed to manage the risks associated with space travel and satellite operations. This niche segment of the insurance market caters to a wide range of needs, from satellite mishaps to launch failures, and even the well-being of astronauts. Here’s a closer look at the primary types of space insurance:

Satellite Insurance

This form of insurance is critical for both government and commercial satellites, covering stages from pre-launch to in-orbit operations. It encompasses launch insurance, in-orbit insurance, and third-party liability, safeguarding against launch failures, collisions, and malfunctions.

Launch Insurance

Launch insurance is vital during the critical phase of lifting a spacecraft off the ground. Given the high risk of launch operations, this insurance covers the vehicle and its payload against damages or total loss.

In-Orbit Insurance

Once a satellite successfully reaches orbit, in-orbit insurance takes over, covering risks like technical failures or space debris impacts during the satellite’s operational life.

Personal Accident Insurance for Astronauts

Ensuring the health and safety of astronauts and space tourists is essential. This insurance covers accidents, injuries, or death occurring during space missions.

Additional Coverage

Other forms of space insurance include third-party liability for damage caused by space operations, hull insurance for the spacecraft, and mission failure insurance, which protects against a mission’s inability to achieve its objectives.

What Carriers Offer Space Insurance?

The space insurance market, though niche, is served by a select group of insurers that have the expertise and financial capacity to underwrite the complex risks of space missions. These include global insurance firms like Lloyd’s of London, Marsh, Aon, and AXA XL, among others. These carriers often form consortia to spread the substantial risks associated with space launches and operations.

For example, AXA XL notes on its website that it “is a leading insurer in the space insurance industry.” They “work closely with [their] clients and brokers around the world to develop innovative, specialized products covering all types of spacecraft and launch vehicles through development, pre-launch, launch and in orbit.” They offer:

  • Launch coverage for spacecraft and launch vehicles from ignition through spacecraft separation in orbit.
  • Post-separation coverage for spacecraft through initial operations, deployments, orbit raising and testing.
  • In-orbit coverage for ongoing operations of satellites through their life.
  • Coverage for transponder users, including loss of revenue and extra expenses.
  • Coverage for satellite manufacturers for loss of incentives and warranty payments.
  • Coverage for launch risk guarantees.
  • Specialized coverage for small satellites and unique missions.
  • Seamless pre-launch and launch coverage.
  • Launch and in-orbit liability coverage.

The Future of Space Insurance

As we stand on the cusp of a new era in space exploration, driven by both government space agencies and private sector pioneers, the space insurance industry is poised for transformation. Here are several trends and developments shaping its future:

Rising Star of Commercial Space Ventures

As mentioned above, the entry of private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic into space exploration and tourism is not only democratizing access to space but also creating new insurance needs and opportunities. As these companies plan more frequent launches and commercial spaceflights, the demand for varied and comprehensive insurance coverage will grow.

Technological Advancements

Emerging technologies such as on-orbit servicing, debris removal, and satellite constellations for global internet coverage are changing the risk landscape. Insurance products will need to evolve to address these new technologies and the associated risks they bring.

Regulatory and Legal Frameworks

The evolving legal and regulatory environment surrounding space activities will have a significant impact on space insurance. Changes in liability and insurance requirements for space operations can influence market dynamics and insurance offerings.

Enhanced Risk Assessment Tools

The application of big data, artificial intelligence, and improved risk modeling will enable insurers to assess risks with greater accuracy. This technological leap could lead to more tailored insurance solutions and pricing strategies.

Space Tourism and Personal Insurance

As space tourism transitions from a lofty dream to reality, insurers are beginning to offer products catering to the health, safety, and liability concerns of space tourists. This new frontier presents both challenges and opportunities for the insurance industry.

Cybersecurity and Environmental Concerns

With the digitalization of space assets and operations, cybersecurity risks emerge as a new frontier for space insurers. Additionally, environmental factors such as space weather and climate change impacts on Earth’s atmosphere may influence satellite operations and reliability, necessitating innovative insurance solutions.

In conclusion, the space insurance sector is navigating uncharted territory, with the rapid pace of technological advancements and the commercialization of space activities presenting both challenges and opportunities. The role of insurance in safeguarding the financial investments in space exploration and utilization becomes increasingly pivotal. By adapting to new risks, embracing technology, and developing innovative insurance products, the industry is well-positioned to support humanity’s aspirations beyond our planet. The future of space insurance, much like space itself, holds infinite possibilities, ready to be explored and secured.


Katharine M. Nohr, J.D. has been a member of IAIP since 2002. She has served as president of the Honolulu Association of Insurance Professionals (HAIP), Hawaii State Council Director, RVP of Region VIII, and has served on many IAIP committees and task forces. She is an insurance defense attorney in Hawaii.

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