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Companies Entering Space Travel Business Face Wide Range of Risks

Source: Marsh

Posted on 20 Apr 2010

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As its space shuttle program winds down, NASA plans to look to the private sector to fill the gap for space travel -- creating both significant opportunities for businesses as well as an array of complex risks.

"The Obama administration is pushing for commercial space entrepreneurs to fill the shuttle role in delivering both cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS)," John Horner, Marsh's Aviation & Aerospace Practice, explained.

"Space flight is inherently risky, and in the past, human space flight has only been performed by government agencies — but commercial space passenger flight is now on the brink of reality.

"Space passenger liability coverage is currently being developed jointly by the insurers and operators," Horner noted. "The contracts being created between operators, passengers, and subcontractors will have to be carefully crafted to meet space contracting non-recourse, best efforts standards. Operators will have to create comprehensive insurance programs covering ground and launch operations.

"Whereas space tourists have traveled to the ISS on Russian launch vehicles at a cost of $20 million for a stay of a few days, entrepreneurs are now poised to enter the commercial space tourist market flying passengers to the edge of space and back for $200,000 a ride," Horner added.

Only three shuttle missions remain before NASA retires its space shuttle fleet.