Space un-surance: no safety net for crashing satellites?

Following a set of failed rocket launches, Russia’s space agency is planning to insure at least part of its activities in 2012. However, officials still seem likely to ignore the most vulnerable items.

The draft budget for such insurance has just been submitted to the State Duma, Anatoly Davydov, deputy head of the agency, told Izvestia.

However, the money allocated ill not cover all the launches. In order to get Duma approval, the space officials had to cut the expenses down to $70 million.

Ironically, among the spaceships whose launches will not be insured are exactly the same ones which did not manage to reach orbit in 2010-11.

Among them is Progress M-12M, whose “brother” crashed on August 24 in the first ever accident with the Progress series in 33 years. Instead, the Russian space agency will make sure the spaceships have reserve equivalents.

Neither will the launches of GLONASS satellites be insured, three of which were lost in December 2010, costing the space agency millions in damages. In trying to restore its reputation, at the time the agency pointed out that such launches should be insured.

Instead, the space agency is planning to insure a set of hydro-meteorological satellites, a remote sensing system, and the Sterkh rescue system satellite. All the satellites are very expensive. The insurance, meanwhile, will amount to only 11 per cent of the satellite’s cost.

To date, the agency is planning to insure exclusively the launch of the satellites. The risks on the orbit will not be covered, despite the world’s standards of insuring launch and the satellite’s first year in space.