Overcrowding in space

30 Mar 2011

The amount of orbital debris in space is double that of two decades ago and over 30% higher than just five years ago. There are many thousands of metal fragments currently orbiting the earth. And among them there are nearly 200 spent rocket bodies which are doubly dangerous because they also pose an explosion risk. Space debris is no longer an academic or environmental issue. On the contrary, it has the potential to damage or destroy high-value, operational satellites that perform vital communications and meteorological functions, with resulting revenue losses running into billions of US dollars.

Orbital debris poses two questions for insurers. First, what steps can they take to promote debris mitigation? And then, what measures may they need to adopt to protect the viability of their business lines if debris mitigation fails to keep collision risk at acceptable levels? Swiss Re's publication, Space Debris: On collision course for insurers?, is a first attempt by a re/insurer to address and seek to mitigate this risk.

The Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue hosted two events in conjunction with the release of the new publication. Representatives of the re/insurance, space and legal communities gathered on 24 March 2011 (see the event page) to consider the implications of debris colliding with operational satellites from a technical, legal and insurance perspective. This was followed by a Risk Talk (see the event page) which served to introduce both the topic and the publication to a broader audience.

For related stories please go to swissre.com