Space…The Final Frontier

Rich-KurkVery cliché, I know, but still so true.

The fact that we now have a burgeoning space industry opens up opportunities for the insurance world. Most insurance companies offer some type of Space and Satellite Insurance which covers things like satellite launch and in-orbit, contingency, in-orbit third party liability, or some combination thereof.  But with space tourism becoming a reality in the not-too-distance future, captive insurance has an opportunity to play a role in the risk management of our last frontier.

The global banking firm UBS believes there will be very lucrative ramifications from the space flight efforts currently led by Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin, and stated that in a decade high-speed travel via outer space will represent an annual market of at least $20 billion and compete with long-distance airline flights. Space tourism will be a $3 billion market by 2030, UBS estimates.

UBS pointed to SpaceX’s plans to use the massive Starship rocket it is building to fly as many as 100 people around the world in minutes. SpaceX said that Starship would be able to fly from New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes, rather than the 15 hours it takes currently by airplane – pretty cool.  And even though space tourism is still nascent, UBS said they believe the sub-sector will become mainstream as the technology becomes proven and cost falls.

The legal risk of orbital space tourism is uncharted territory, and the liability risks to these companies could be huge.  Under current regulation, commercial passengers will have to sign an “informed consent” form to confirm that they recognize and accept the risks. This provision has been enshrined in US law by the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act 2004. Such liability waivers remain untested in the courts.

Although there are large insurance firms looking at space tourism, it seems that there is a yawning gap for the liability coverage of the space firms. Captives have always done well with filling this void with targeted, bespoke coverage. So, brush off your old Star Trek DVDs and let’s hope that we have a panel at the VCIA conference in the next ten years devoted to the extraterrestrial!

For all you Trekkies out there we have the next best thing to Captain James T. Kirk: for our closing luncheon on Thursday at the VCIA Annual Conference the week of August 5th we have former astronaut Mike Massimino as our special keynote. He is a recurring character on The Big Bang Theory, a professor at Columbia University, the first person to tweet from space, and a New York Times best-selling author.  Mike will speak of pursuing his passion and tell incredible stories about his experiences in outer space manning space missions. Having one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, Mike will speak of the teamwork and problem-solving skills needed to train for and accomplish one of NASA’s most difficult space missions. Don’t miss this fun closing event!

Thank you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

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