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SwissRe and other reinsurers state that 21 LEO satellites and 167 GEO satellites are insured, but I was wondering if more information was available on that.

Also, are satellites fully insured? Or what is the usual attachment/excess of loss and share of layer?

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  • $\begingroup$ Some links about satellite insurances 1, 2, 3. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Jul 24, 2018 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ Are you, um, planning on taking out a satellite in order to collect the insurance? :) $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2018 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Durlabh Pande Could you be more precise with your questions please? What, in your terms, is "attachment/excess of loss and share of layer"? $\endgroup$
    – Puffin
    Jul 24, 2018 at 22:39

2 Answers 2

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I'm sorry for not having more time to fully research this, but here's a short answer.

Many satellites don't have any ongoing insurance of any kind. Some countries require short-term insurance to cover liability incidents during launch, deployment, and initial operation, but generally there is no legal requirement to keep long-term insurance.

Those satellites that do have long-term insurance are insured against loss of function; that is, it's a business decision, where the operators want to protect against the chance that they might lose the ability to make money off the satellite. This protects the operator, but doesn't cover liability or damage the satellite might theoretically cause to other operators with other satellites.

For the most part, the only "insurance" of a sort regarding liability for damage caused by space operations is the liability provisions of the Outer Space Treaty and the Liability Convention, which say that the launching state(s) will be responsible if there is fault that results in damage in space, or responsible for all damage caused on land.

I'm not aware of a list of insured satellites, but it's possible that someone in the industry has one. There are a few companies that insure satellites though, so I don't know who exactly would compile that.

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  • $\begingroup$ Presumably SwissRe have a list, as the question says that the numbers came from them. $\endgroup$
    – djr
    Jul 24, 2018 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @djr Name something that SwissRe doesn't have a list of ;) . By that I mean that if anyone knows, it would be large reinsurance firms. After all, an insurance firm will absolutely buy reinsurance for something as valuable as a sattelite. It doesn't mean that they can publish that list. $\endgroup$ Jul 25, 2018 at 2:09
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This response addresses two parts to the question: 1. "...I was wondering if more information was available on that." 2. "Also, are satellites fully insured?"

For 1. - there are two different markets: third party and asset and each can deal with launch or in-orbit risks. The asset market is the larger of the two. - there is no single list. There are three dozen underwriters that do international business and dozens of local insurers. There are half a dozen brokers that do international business. They all have a list of their own and no one can see the whole picture. For most the existance of an insurance contract (particularly for asset insurance) is not always disclosed publically.

For 2. - this is impossible to say in any specific case given the lack of disclosure. Talking more typically, whilst its common to insure the functions of a satellite as it was intended to support the owners business venture, its by no means universal, there are often uninsured bits of payloads.

Also, there are often

a) deductibles for first losses

b) "constructive total losses" - points where if a large fraction of the satellite stops working it is considered to be effectively a total loss with a full payout.

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