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Commercial Insurance for Private Space Travel A Serious Concern

Mar 2, 2008
Private space travel and tourism is already being considered as a reality by the commercial and business insurance industry.

A panel discussion at the Federal Aviation Administration's annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference, attended by commercial and business insurance experts, indicated that the costs of policies is likely to be extremely high in the early years or until a successful track record had been established by private space tourism companies.

Raymond Duffy, senior vice president of Willis Inspace of New York, commented that commercial business insurance rates would be exceptionally high in the beginning, and would only reduce significantly when positive results for safe and successful space travel were confirmed.

He went on to suggest that early failures by Space Travel or Space Tourism companies would make it virtually impossible for the new industry to procure insurance at all, recommending that personal spaceflight companies should spread the risk as much as possible throughout the industry. However, he concluded that eventually the commercial insurance industry and the spacetravel orgranisations would negotiate ways to limit risk and manage the overall costs.

Another Conference delegate, Ralph Harp of Falcon Insurance, suggested that personal spaceflight companies needed to present a very clear and detailed picture of their intentions as they prepare to send their first clients into space. With so little knowledge beyond the international space programme, insurers would have very little information on which to assess the risks they might be undertaking in underwriting any commercial space travel project.

Discussing the problem of securing commercial insurance for private space travel after the Conference, George Whitesides, a senior advisor to Virgin Galactic told Space News that his company had already had some positive discussions with insurers. He said that the insurers had told Virgin that a business model put forward to them seemed sustainable.

It will certainly be interesting to discover who are the first commercial insurers to boldly go where no insurers have gone before.

Back in March 2007, it was reported that BUPA Travel Insurance was considering the space tourist market as its next project in the area of commercial insurance.
A BUPA travel spokesman then commented: "We are looking into space tourism as a real market for the next generation of travellers, especially as Russian cosmonauts have already taken tourists into space".

The spokesman added: "We provide insurance cover to people in 190 countries so it wouldn't be a giant leap to add outer space to that list".
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