Swiss Re Corporate Solutions has published a new study exploring the implications of collision risks for satellites in low-Earth orbits (LEO).
The number of active satellites in orbit is set to multiply over the next decade, and lower orbits are becoming increasingly crowded and littered with debris. Orbital debris already makes up more than 90% of the tracked objects orbiting the planet today, the study found.
Swiss Re Corporate Solutions’ study explored how liability might be attributed in the case of a satellite collision and how the insurance industry is responding to the needs of satellite operations. Since 2011, the catalogued orbital population has grown by 19% to about 19,000 objects, the study found.
“With more and more (satellite) constellations being deployed in LEO, the insurance industry is facing new challenges,” said Jan Schmidt, head of space at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. “Typically, insurers have provided insurance products that respond to total loss or damage to large, high-value communications satellites in geostationary orbit. Today we are seeing increased demand for products offering similar financial protection but for constellations made up of hundreds or even thousands of satellites operating in LEO.”
The private sector now leads 70% of space activity, according to the United Nations. Many private concerns make use of satellite constellations – up to hundreds or thousands of satellites working together to provide global coverage.
“In a LEO constellation with multiple satellites orbiting the Earth multiple times a day, collision risk is a significant consideration for insurers,” Swiss Re Corporate Solutions said. The company said that insureds – especially in the most exposed regions of LEO – should give consideration to possible damage to their satellites from debris impact.