Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Could Insurance Coverage Hobble Commercial Space Flights?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the devil's-in-the-details dept.

Government 169

coondoggie writes "Should the government continue to share the monetary risk of a catastrophic spacecraft accident even as the United States depends ever-more on commercial space technology? The question is one currently up for debate as the program that currently insures space launches, the Federal Aviation Administration's 'indemnification' risk-sharing authority, which can provide a maximum of $2.7 billion of insurance per launch, expires at the end of the year. According to the Government Accountability Office a catastrophic commercial launch accident could result in injuries or property damage to the uninvolved public, or 'third parties.' In anticipation of such an event, a launch company must purchase a fixed amount of insurance for each launch, per calculation by FAA; the federal government is potentially liable for claims above that amount up about $2.7 billion."

cancel ×

169 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

irvineeconometrics.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251175)

Contact me, I'll write the coverage.

I know, right? (3, Interesting)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254439)

Could Insurance Coverage Hobble Commercial Space Flights?

No, because humanity as a whole is not stupid enough to continue hobbling itself with such ridiculous rackets as "insurance companies." If they are holding up progress, eventually they will be discarded as the worthless trash they are. Won't let me launch my rocket in the U.S.? Oh well, I'll find some other country that's interested in being a part of the solution, not the problem.

One word (2)

BitHive (578094) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251177)

Deregulate!

One word (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251259)

No!

three more words (-1, Troll)

charles allen bobby (2657289) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251331)

             ,,
             db

`7MMpMMMb. `7MM .P"Ybmmm .P"Ybmmm.gP"Ya`7Mb,od8
  MM    MM   MM:MI  I8  :MI  I8 ,M'   Yb MM' "'
  MM    MM   MM WmmmP"   WmmmP" 8M"""""" MM
  MM    MM   MM8M       8M      YM.    , MM
.JMML  JMML.JMMLYMMMMMb  YMMMMMb `Mbmmd.JMML.
               6'     dP6'     dP
               Ybmmmd'  Ybmmmd'

    ,...
  .d' ""                              mm
  dM`                                 MM
mMMmm,6"Yb. .P"Ybmmm .P"Ybmmm,pW"WqmmMMmm
  MM 8)   MM:MI  I8  :MI  I8 6W'   `WbMM
  MM  ,pm9MM WmmmP"   WmmmP" 8M     M8MM
  MM 8M   MM8M       8M      YA.   ,A9MM
.JMML`Moo9^YoYMMMMMb  YMMMMMb `Ybmd9' `Mbmo
            6'     dP6'     dP
            Ybmmmd'  Ybmmmd'

,dW"Yvd`7MM  `7MM .gP"Ya  .gP"Ya`7Mb,od8
,W'   MM  MM    MM,M'   Yb,M'   Yb MM' "'
8M    MM  MM    MM8M""""""8M"""""" MM
YA.   MM  MM    MMYM.    ,YM.    , MM
`MbmdMM  `Mbod"YML`Mbmmd' `Mbmmd.JMML.
      MM
    .JMML.

Your user account has been banned from Slashdot

Due to questionable activity from this user account, it has been temporarily disabled. Actions that would cause this ban are posting comments designed to intentionally break comment rendering for other users, or running some sort of script or program that loaded an unacceptable number of pages in a short time frame.

If you feel that this is unwarranted, feel free to include your UID in the subject of an email, and we will examine why there is a ban. If you fail to include the UID (again, in the subject!), then your message will be deleted and ignored. I mean come on, we're good, we're not psychic. Send your email to banned@slashdot.org

Re:One word (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251391)

No!

Yes, parent is correct.

You see, this is where the free markets fail - on the outliers.

History has shown time and time again, human life is subordinate to profits.

But here's the kick in the balls - you can be too careful. If we were too careful we would never have landed on the Moon. Then again, if there were better regulation, we wouldn't be in the economic mess we - at least in the Western World - are in.

I think, if you apy for a flight in space in this day and age, you are on your own.

Re:One word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252141)

Please, what is this crap, you cant just blurt out that extreme anything, even anything that is good when being reasonable about it eventually leads to problems. Learning from history is the wort form of propaganda, stop it.

Re:One word (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254447)

Learn English, then you'll be welcome to back here and tell us what we can or can't do. TIA

Re:One word (4, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251477)

Is there a comprehensive list of problems deregulation has solved? If so, does it start and end with "The shareholders, executive board, lobbyists, and politicians don't have enough money"?

Re:One word (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254451)

Is there a comprehensive list of problems that regulation has "solved? Can you also include a complete list of the problems it has caused, so we can decide for ourselves if the cost is worth it?

Re:One word (2)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251505)

deregulate just another word for "shit happens"

Re:One word (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253829)

Yeah. It's code for "make sure you step out of the way, so somebody else takes the shit in the face"

Ridiculous (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251183)

So a launch from Cape Canaveral could cause $2.7 Billion in damage? From what? Hitting an ocean liner? And the chances of that are. . .astronomical? I can't imagine the insurance would be very expensive (relative to the cost of a launch).

Re:Ridiculous (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251235)

Self insurance seems a likely option. People aren't building NASA launch vehicles in their garages. Yet.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251915)

Self insurance is also known as no insurance. You should also note that they are currently self insured for anything above $2.7 Billion. I personally can't see a launch causing that much loss, that is unless someone resurrects project Orion. If they want to offload some of the catastrophe risk, that is above $X Billion, then someone like GenRe would probably take a piece of the action.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252503)

More likely typical corporate bullshit, will create one of companies per launch, all debt and no capital. They'll also dump all employees wages and pensions in there, corporate greed being corporate greed, any time a launch fails, meh tough, bankrupt the $2 debt ridden company, employees lose all wages and pensions (excluding the corporate executive ass hats who created the scheme, their wages and conditions are covered by another company) and screw the innocent victims. Then it's create the next company for the next launch.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251257)

If something goes wrong, doesn't that imply that it might *not* go the direction that was intended, and instead end up over land?

Re:Ridiculous (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251311)

That's the thing about launch sites, they put them a long way from anything (China is excepted from this rule for some reason). There's nothing it to hit on land that would cause that much damage, unless it somehow landed in Orlando.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251427)

Orlando almost did get hit.

http://www.columbiassacrifice.com/$B_breakup.htm

Re:Ridiculous (1)

elliott666 (447115) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251449)

If Orlando was in Texas, then yes.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252723)

That is by far the shittiest website ever linked to on Slashdot. It makes goatse look legit.

Two Words. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251435)

Punitive Damages.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251445)

Would that imply that KSC works with mickey mouse launch protocols?

Re:Ridiculous (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251283)

UP to 2.7 billion. But. lets say you're satellite you are launching hits the Space station. Bam, more then 2.7B right there. Hits another satellite and cause substantial debris. Many things.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

twotacocombo (1529393) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251293)

Not all launches are from Florida. We have a space facility here in California too, two if you counted Edwards AFB for the shuttle landings. Check out the proximity of the town of Lompoc to the Vandenberg launch complex. Nobody expected parts of a space shuttle to come raining down over several states. If something that epic occurred, would you be willing to be the farm that something won't *ever* go that wrong during a rocket launch?

Re:Ridiculous (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251349)

At the bargain price of $22k a song, a music server would only have to hold about 123,000 songs to reach $2.7 billion! Just the iPods on that ocean liner might have that many. Where's your sense of value? Clearly some don't have the same stuff upstairs that bankers and insurance folks do.

Just imagine the cost if they hit Facebook. The loss of exports alone... imagine the great loss to mankind. Better keep some bottled in case of an emergency. Why in 100,000 years with scarce resources they'll find some fossilized facebook and be in awe. Imagine what that'll be worth.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251431)

It's mostly lawyers fees for working out how much money they can make from the unusual conditions of space launches.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251485)

So a launch from Cape Canaveral could cause $2.7 Billion in damage?

Whoever did this study must have hired MPAA/RIAA accountants.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252969)

From either the launch vehicle itself or parts thereof crashing into a populated area. It's not like the entire flight path is over the ocean. When they say "launch" they don't mean just the minute or so after the rockets fire, they mean the entire trip initiated by said launch.

9/11 cost 7 billion just in terms of victim compensation plus about 21 billion to replace the buildings. Sure 9/11 was deliberate, but that doesn't mean you couldn't have an airline accident on that scale. 2.7 billion in damage from a commercial space vehicle crashing into something isn't by any stretch of the imagination beyond the pale.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253423)

Nobody insures nuclear reactors as well, just make a law that limits the damage to the price of 1 of Bill Gates' houses just like they did with nuclear.

2.7billion seems a lot (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251205)

Given these things are usually launched over water. Granted it could malfunction in that way, but in all of US launch history, how many civilian deaths among the uninvolved public have there been? I can't off hand think of any, but maybe someone else here knows of some?

So at least, the risk seems small, although of course it's never going to be zero. Can private insurance the entire thing, not just some fraction under the 2.7 billion? Dunno how it works for space launches, but for my auto etc insurance, doubling the policy amount does not double the cost of the insurance.

Re:2.7billion seems a lot (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251325)

There haven't been all that many civilian launches either. Now that it's been proven to work, many companies will probably jump on the bandwagon and try to make some money from launches. So sooner or later you're going to get a CEO that realizes that all of those safety measures employed on the craft are eating into his bonus money. So a craft will crash into something valuable, with the CEO demanding the government pay for the damages.

Cant call it commercial space flight (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251207)

I would say you cant call it commercial space flight until it funds itself privately.

Jurisdiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251233)

The insurance coverage requirement applies to all launches. This includes launches that occur outside of the United States by entities that do not have assets in the United States.

Re:Jurisdiction (4, Insightful)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251659)

For all people speculating about juristiction, please read the Outerspace Treaty (the relavant parts are below).

Since these launches are from the US and the US signed the treaty, the US is potentally liable for what a non-government (e.g., private) entity does in outer space. Forcing the non-governmental entity launching in a signator's territory to carry sufficient insurance to offset most of the potential liabiity seems like it would always be a likely on-going requirement (by any the 100 or so nation-states who are signators to this treaty including the US).

Article VI: States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization.

Article VII: Each State Party to the Treaty that launches or procures the launching of an object into outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and each State Party from whose territory or facility an object is launched, is internationally liable for damage to another State Party to the Treaty or to its natural or juridical persons by such object or its component parts on the Earth, in air space or in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies.

Re:Jurisdiction (2)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254491)

Since these launches are from the US and the US signed the treaty, the US is potentally liable for what a non-government (e.g., private) entity does in outer space.

Bullshit. This is unenforceable cold war nonsense. If somebody decides to launch a rocket from the Congo or Madagascar with permission from the government, the U.S. isn't going to do a damn thing about it. If someone send a spacecraft to Mars and sets up a colony there, the U.S. isn't going to do a damn thing about it.

Re:Jurisdiction (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254473)

The insurance coverage requirement applies to all launches. This includes launches that occur outside of the United States by entities that do not have assets in the United States.

Bullshit. Let somebody try to enforce it.

So how do the airlines handle it? (2)

drgould (24404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251321)

Clearly the airlines fly many, many more flights over much more populated areas than commercial space companies plan to over the next decade or longer and they are still in operation. So what is their insurance coverage strategy?

I'm guessing that the biggest difference is that the actuary statistics are well established for the airline industry, while they're limited for the commercial space industry.

Perhaps in that case it would be reasonable for the government to continue to indemify the commercial space industry until there is sufficient data for commercial insurance companies to feel comfortable selling coverage.

Re:So how do the airlines handle it? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251375)

Let me know when airliners are launching things into space that could destroy satellites, destroy the ISS, and make space harder to access.

Re:So how do the airlines handle it? (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251941)

They are flying planes all around the world that have been shown capable of destroying massive skyscrapers and thousands of lives. From a financial standpoint, I find it hard to believe that commercial spacecraft could cause significantly more damage.

Re:So how do the airlines handle it? (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253565)

Sure, but once the airplane + building hit the ground, it doesn't leave highly lethal debris floating in midair immediately in the approach/takeoff airspace over every airport on the globe. Space debris is there, effectively forever. Geostationary sattelites are only going to exist until the beginning of WW3, when someone launches a bunch of flak into an intersecting elipitcal orbit to take out the vast majority of spy and comm sattelites.

Re:So how do the airlines handle it? (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254505)

Sure, but once the airplane + building hit the ground, it doesn't leave highly lethal debris floating in midair immediately in the approach/takeoff airspace over every airport on the globe. Space debris is there, effectively forever.

So just because someone MIGHT have a rocket blow up in orbit this adding to our already-existing space debris problem that is never going away and will have to be dealt with eventually anyway.... this means each and every single person who decides to launch into space should be required by law to write a huge check to an insurance company "just in case"?

That's almost as dumb as mandatory auto insurance.

Re:So how do the airlines handle it? (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251407)

Apparently the government does it: "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Insurance Program provides products that address the insurance needs of the U.S. domestic air transportation industry not adequately met by the commercial insurance market. The FAA currently is providing war risk insurance under two separate programs; 1) Premium War Risk Insurance, and 2) Non Premium War Risk Insurance."

http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/apl/aviation_insurance/ [faa.gov]
Copied by Opera. Visit opera.com for your own copy.

Re:So how do the airlines handle it? (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251451)

Air carrier liability is partly limited by the Warsaw Convention and other legislation but they are usually still liable for acts of criminal negligence and open to civil claims. Consequently, mention the word "aviation" in a conversation with an insurer and you can be fairly certain you'll be surprised by the climb rate of premiums :)

Re:So how do the airlines handle it? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253323)

I'm guessing that the biggest difference is that the actuary statistics are well established for the airline industry, while they're limited for the commercial space industry.

That, and failure rate for civil aviation is several orders of magnitude lower. If civil aviation failed at the average rate that boosters do - there would be over 50 crashes on take off per day at Sea-Tac alone instead of only two in nearly seventy years of operation. (And Sea-Tac is far from the busiest airport in the US, let alone the world.)

Re:So how do the airlines handle it? (2)

drgould (24404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253571)

That, and failure rate for civil aviation is several orders of magnitude lower.

Now, yes.

But what about, for example, SpaceX Falcon boosters which are designed from the beginning for reliability and reuse? Instead of boosters which are designed merely "good enough" because they're only used once.

SpaceX has a much different mindset than Lockheed Martin or McDonnell Douglas. They plan on making money selling launches to private and government clients. They have a strong incentive to make their boosters as reliable as possible, and from everything I've heard, that's exactly what they're doing. Elon Musk's reputation is on the line with every launch.

Unlike Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, et al who only need to design and build their boosters "good enough" to meet their contract requirements. Who's personal reputation is on the line if an Atlas booster fails?

I don't see any reason why, with proper design, boosters shouldn't be as reliable, or almost as reliable, as airliners.

leave it at self insured (1)

ronpaulisanidiot (2529418) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251323)

the government has no business providing or purchasing insurance. let the benevolent hand of the free market handle the risk and watch the results soar.

Three truths (4, Insightful)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251327)

1. Space is risky. If you are going to go there, or benefit from going there (do you like having satellites able to inform where the hurricane is going to make landfall?) you are going to participate in that risk.

2. Sometimes, risk is imposed and you don't get an opt-out. The world is not made of Nerf. Neither are satellites or boost systems. You don't get to vote on this, otherwise we sink to the level of the loudest coward.

3. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is a greater threat to a country's ability to achieve great things than its lawyers and those who would employ them to their own benefit without regard to the costs to us all.

Life involves risk. Wear a helmet... unless you're a tort lawyer.

Re:Three truths (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251361)

I am an old curmudgeon who doesnt believe in space. Your space shuttle debris just hit my car, my roof, and my wife after flying over for a landing.
I sue you for the car and roof, 2.8 billion sir!

Re:Three truths (1)

bre_dnd (686663) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254185)

Grievance over one lost life -- 2 million dollars

One roof replacement -- 50.000 dollars

Day value of one used car -- 10.000 dollars

Cheque made out to the claimant, US$ 2.060.000

Re:Three truths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251467)

1. The people who benefit from going there are the companies involved and their customers. If the government happens to be a customer (e.g. they hire out for a launch of a hurricane monitoring satellite) then they'll pay the insurance indirectly by paying higher prices.

2. I don't get to vote on how my tax dollars are spent?

3. I really don't see how this applies. If a rocket booster lands on someone's house, destroys it, and kills the family dog, they should be compensated. I really don't see how an ambulance chaser is going to be able to eke out more money than such a family would deserve.

The major advantage of a government insurance program is you can be be sure the insurer won't fold when a private insurer might. On the other hand, you then have the government having a vested interest in siding with the space company against the victim of an accident, the government interfering with the space company, and the space company not having proper incentives to be safe. And ultimately, the insurance is just a subsidy.

Re:Three truths (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251813)

3. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is a greater threat to a country's ability to achieve great things than its lawyers and those who would employ them to their own benefit without regard to the costs to us all.

What about the lawyer of other countries? Especially patent lawyers (able to block your products based on its rounded corners?)

Re:Three truths (1)

rock_climbing_guy (630276) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252401)

3. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is a greater threat to a country's ability to achieve great things than its lawyers and those who would employ them to their own benefit without regard to the costs to us all

Amen, brother!

Can you imagine if we could take all the money that the big companies have invested in patent litigation and invest that in the space program or some other scientific endeavor?

Re:Three truths (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252611)

That's great and all. But if a satellite hits your house in order to bring the joys of Satellite TV to the masses and the enrichment of the shareholders... why should you shoulder the cost?

People always really hate lawyers right up to the point where they've been wronged. Let's be honest. People are douche bags. Especially corporations. If they don't have to pay, they won't pay. Doing freelance work I've seen this first hand. If it weren't for contract law people would essentially just be screwing one person after another and profiting from it.

Is it risky? Yes. If you are going to profit from the risk should you also pay for the potential damages to other people? Yes.

You speak as if all space exploration is "for the benefit of mankind." A substantial portion of space exploration is for the benefit of all the stock holders. So when things go sideways--it's the stock holders that should pay. And if they don't have enough money--which they probably don't, then they should pay for insurance to ensure that someone can pay for their screw ups.

This is where libertarianism fails. I libertarian says that anybody who harms another party simply has to pay for it. But the reason we have regulations like this is because a lot of times people can't pay--which means you can act without the capability to correct their damages. As soon as you're incapable of actually fixing one of your actions you need to be regulated so that you can be excused from liability. When a rocket plows into another satellite, you need to be able to say "well, I bought as much liability insurance as was required by the government."

Re:Three truths (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254091)

You missed the point entirely. Insurance enables you to take risks. Without insurance every mistake could potentially bankrupt the company.

Tort reform has been badly needed since the 1900s (3, Insightful)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251345)

It is a joke that if you open a skate park, and someone gets hurt, brings drugs, a weapon, or threatens someone that you get sued so hard you can lose your property. I love the USA, but you don't have a lot of private individuals opening their property for people to ride motorcycles or just chill outside with free concerts. Also car insurance is a big scam because of liability. You can buy a used car every 4 years at even the low rates of car insurance. Car insurance certainly isn't there to keep you on the road. Ski resorts get sued when someone falls down in even ordinary skiing conditions. The only reason ski resorts stay open is that they need to make more money than they lose in lawsuits. You don't have to agree with me on this one, but I think liability needs drastically reformed, and it has been this way for over 100 years..

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251441)

>>>You can buy a used car every 4 years at even the low rates of car insurance.

Nationwide insures me for just $110 a month. So that would be $880 over four years..... not enough to buy a car, unless it's a really old one (like 1997).

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251525)

$110/month = $880/4 years? Que?

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251557)

Wow, there's only 8 months in 4yrs?

110 x 12 x 4 = $5280

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251565)

That would be $5,280 over four years and even with the ridiculously high used car prices out there now you could buy a car with that every four years.

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (1)

Tynin (634655) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251587)

>>>You can buy a used car every 4 years at even the low rates of car insurance.

Nationwide insures me for just $110 a month. So that would be $880 over four years..... not enough to buy a car, unless it's a really old one (like 1997).

Math fail? $110 a month, multiplied by 8 months, equals $880. $110 a month, multiplied by 48 months (since there are 12 months in a year, multiplied by 4 years, equals 48 months, are you still with me?), equals $5280, which happens to the around the price of an okay, not great, but pretty okay used car, plus the cost to get it registered. Give it a few months and if this used car was an automatic, maybe you'll need another 24 months (2 years) worth of car insurance in order to get the transmission fixed.

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251655)

>>>Math fail?

No word fail. I meant to type: Nationwide insures me for just $110 every 6 months. Or $880 over 4 years.

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251719)

>>>Math fail?

No word fail. I meant to type: Nationwide insures me for just $110 every 6 months. Or $880 over 4 years.

Really? ~$18 a month? Really?

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (2)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252861)

They must be 50 years old (statistically least likely to have an accident) own a lightweight, under-powered car (or no car at all..), opted for basic liability only (legally required in most states to get a driver license), and told their agent they only use it to drive 3 blocks to church on Sunday.

Or they're lying.

Either way, practically nobody else in the country gets rates that low.

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253603)

you have liability only then...which means when you wreck the car you get nothing.
compare comprehensive over that same period......

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251639)

Nationwide insures me for just $110 a month. So that would be $880 over four years

Um...so years have two months where you come from?

$110 a month is $5280 in four years. Yes, you could buy a pretty decent used car for that.

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252743)

You aren't kidding [ebay.com] .

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252691)

The only required car insurance is liability. It doesn't protect you at all. It protects the people that you injure and hospitalize, in addition to the damage you do to other people's property.

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252721)

"Comprehensive" car insurance coverage is very useful.
It covers deer hits and theft.

I've went through at least half a dozen hoods due to wildlife.
One time it was a precision hit that took out the radiator and AC system with a 3" ding right in the center.
If I didn't have the coverage, damage would be in excess of $1500.

Re:Tort reform has been badly needed since the 190 (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254123)

Car insurance is necessary. If you trash my expensive car you are going to pay for it. I don't want to waste my time suing you, taking your shitty possessions and selling them off to pay for it, maybe making you homeless. If you manage to injure me severely the cost of medical care could be hundreds of thousands, even millions over a lifetime. Want to give me every penny you earn for the rest of your life?

If you can afford a car and fuel you can afford basic 3rd party insurance, unless you are such a terrible driver you keep getting into accidents in which case pricing you off the road is a good thing.

So launch from downtown Detroit . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251347)

. . . injuries or property damage will go unnoticed.

Actually, launch locations in China and Russia might look more commercially attractive now. A rocket launch has destroyed your house? Your tough luck for living near a launch pad.

insurance killjoy (1)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251357)

When does insurance not act as a killjoy weapon for those who want to shut something down, or control someone's behavior? It's a financial yoke that requires a fear-driven, risk-adverse culture to function. Life has risks. Deal with it. many of the problems brewing over the last 50 years or so are caused by too much risk aversion and litigiousness and not enough decisive leadership. I blame insurance as both a part of this problem and as a symptom of it. In the end, paying a bunch of bankers a lot of money doesn't save your sorry hide if the rocket/car/human fails somewhere along the way.

Re:insurance killjoy (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251911)

The problem with mandated insurance is not that it exists but that it is a closed system. Any time you're forced to purchase a service, it should be provided at cost. As it is, the formula used to determine what each member should pay is a secret, so not only is there profit, but you're prohibited from actually knowing what the actual cost is. That's OK for something that you buy by choice, but it's utterly unacceptable for anything you're forced to purchase.

Insurance & Reinsurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251363)

Insurance companies provide two services for the community: 1) pricing of risk and 2) transfer of risk. Those are good things. Some risks are too large for one person or company or entity to handle. That's where reinsurance comes in, which is a large and established industry. Reinsurers help insurance companies spread out the risk to more people. Each gets a share of the potential profits AND losses.

Other markets work like this and they work well. Do you think any one company wants to take the risk of insuring homeowners on an earthquake in CA or a hurricane in AL? No. They may take a portion of the risk but then they transfer other parts to other companies. It works well.

Re:Insurance & Reinsurance (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252065)

...or mortgage insurance in case the buyers fail to repay their mortgages and the buildings cannot be resold for more than the outstanding lien. There was a huge market in reinsurance for that product, and that turned out just fine!

Remove the coverage, and the requirement (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251381)

2.7 billion dollars is an insane amount of money to have to buy for every launch.

Get the government out of backing the insurance, but also set the requirement for launch insurance far lower, or eliminate it altogether. The launch companies will have to buy insurance anyway, investors would not stand for not being covered.

And this is why we have a government... (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251463)

...because they have the resources to deal with such a catastrophe. I suppose private companies have the resources too though. How much does it cost to tie a case up in court until the other side runs out of money and/or dies from injuries? Probably cheaper to buy off a Senator anyway. At the risk of being modded troll I'll add 'Viva Libertarian Paradise!'. But I'll touch off by saying that at least with the gov't it's not somebody's 9 to 5 day job to make sure the victims don't get paid (Tobacco companies, I'm lookin' at you).

Re:And this is why we have a government... (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252883)

at least with the gov't it's not somebody's 9 to 5 day job to make sure the victims don't get paid

You must not know anybody who's had to deal with the VA or Social Security/Disability.

Trust me, they've got plenty of warm bodies dedicated to not paying claims.

Another question... (1)

Gimbal (2474818) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251665)

Do oil refineries have to pay insurance to the surrounding communities, for the possibility of a catastrophic failure at a refinery? I don't suspect so. Oil refineries in the US, then, implement security protocols, checkups, and more checkups, to prevent the possibility of refinery failure.

I'd like to mention, then, that NewSpace companies will have more on the line than any governmental space agency even possibly could. I'm sure they must all well understand the full extents of the importance of launch vehicle safety and launch site safety, thoroughly.

Re:Another question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252067)

would they do these measures if there was no threat of liability lawsuits? Only in as much as they needed to protect their stuff. The fate of the surrounding community or workers is at best a meh, to be relegated as much as possible to a cost-of-doing-business matter. Limit liability per death in an accident to $2000 per death, $1000 per injured person? OK, but next year lobby to get it reduced in half, and so on.
The risk of a multi-million (or billion) dollar lawsuit, if the probability is perceived to be high enough, warrants the company spending more on prevention and mitigation measures than they would if they had no threat of this kind of economic push back.

I'm sure that some would say that while the past actions of some companies (Johns-Manville, WR Grace, etc) have been very bad, and caused lots of suffering, etc., the lawsuits that forced them into bankruptcy were way over the top, unfair, should be capped, etc. In other words, the ability for a company to profit should be as unfettered as possible. And it's for "society" to pick up the pieces where they fall, not the "job creators (because, they're the job creators, right?)" if it all goes to hell.

So mexico should build some space ports (1)

BlueCoder (223005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251715)

Then take over the business from the US. They could institute no fault laws and hold space launches that go bad unsuitable.

In the united states it's also trivial to setup shell companies to take a fall for anything. Companies are only liable for up to what they have in the bank and their infrastructure collateral. A company at risk for disaster and being sued will transfer it's money easily enough and rent it's critical infrastructure. Nothing to stop them from going bankrupt.

Only thing your risking is your short term income of up to a year which for a spaceport could be substantial. Subcontractors can possibly be sued to recover income they made from said company for something like a year prior under laws that make shell companies somewhat accountable for at least a trifle something.

Re:So mexico should build some space ports (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251959)

So mexico should build some space ports

Why not Kenya (low population density) or Congo (launch over the ocean) - both with locations closer to equator? Avoiding 2.7 bills/shot in insurance would make this a reasonable investment.

Re:So mexico should build some space ports (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253761)

I'm pretty sure Brazil does space launches on a fairly regular basis. Russia has been launching from Kzyrgistan for decades, both military, civilian and commercial.

Bundle (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251769)

Just bundle with all your other insurance, house, NYC appartment, California house with garage car elevator, lake cottage, classic Chevy corvette, wifes 2 Cadilacs , motorcycle, ATV, ski boat, yacht, jet ski, private jet , campaign bus...
Geico covers all your rides.

Absolutely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251811)

Absolutely insurance coverage could hobble commercial space flight... just like it hobbles commercial atmospheric flight.

privatize profits socialize risk (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251883)

more corporate welfare.

Incentives (2)

dumky2 (2610695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251931)

What happens to incentives when government provides indemnification beyond what private insurers are willing to cover?
Any risks beyond what is covered by insurers becomes essentially free to the corporation taking the risks. That cost is "socialized" onto taxpayers. That means they will take unreasonable risks for which they won't be accountable.
Insurers have incentives to evaluate the risk properly. Otherwise they lose business and money. Government agencies cannot provide the equivalent service and protection as they lack incentives and accountability.

It seems.... (3, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252211)

It seems that if commercial space vehicles need the government to cover the risk, then they aren't really commercial. Commercial space ventures should pay their own way, including insuring against catastrophic failure. If that makes the commercial endeavour too expensive, then the market would dictate that commercial space ventures aren't feasible and it should be left to the government. That might not be what people want to hear, but if the private sector really can't do it cheaper than the government, then the government should do it.

Re:It seems.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253525)

For insurance companies to charge a fair premium for insuring a space launch, they need to understand the launch business, the odds of it going wrong, and how much damage it could cause. Without any historical commercial data to draw on, they need to spend a lot of time and effort doing this, which costs money, which gets added onto the premiums they charge. The insurance companies want to make a profit, and there isn't much competition in the space-insurance business, so they increase the premiums further still. A commercial space venture would end up paying (imho) several times the actual external cost of their launch (i.e. possible damages multiplied by probability that they'll happen).

Re:It seems.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253777)

Or the simple way. It says you have to carry 2.7 billion in insurance.

Throw 2.7 billion in the bank, and you can skip insurance.
Or you can pay a company to assume the risk for you at whatever rate they offer.

Re:It seems.... (1)

tronbradia (961235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254045)

Insurance for NASA rocket launches isn't and cheaper than for private launches, so this isn't an issue of private vs. public efficiency, it's just a question of who bears the risk: the feds or the organization launching the rocket. Since those used to always be the same organization, it wasn't a complicated question in the past. It is now.

Re:It seems.... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254159)

Look at the nuclear industry to see how this works. The cost of an accident can easily be in the hundreds of billions range and no-one can afford that kind of insurance so the government covers it. Otherwise, they argue, we would not have nuclear power, or it would be "less efficient" and somehow cost more.

Re:It seems.... (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254229)

to be more exact: it's a similar setup. the companies have to have a minimum level of insurance in the 10's of billion range but beyond that since few insurance companies have deep enough pockets to cover much more than that the government acts as the insurer of last resort.

Re:It seems.... (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254239)

Look at the nuclear industry to see how this works. The cost of an accident can easily be in the hundreds of billions range and no-one can afford that kind of insurance so the government covers it. Otherwise, they argue, we would not have nuclear power, or it would be "less efficient" and somehow cost more.

It happens in other industries too; above a certain level of catastrophe, the government ends up paying. The main difference with nuclear power seems to be that there's been a long history of military meddling (e.g., that's why we use uranium as fuel in the first place) and there's a significant lobby that completely panics every time someone says "nuclear accident"; the level of safety demanded by such people following an incident is often unrealistic, so they should bear some of the costs of reaching that level.

People are crap at managing risk.

Airlines want government insurance too (1)

OverTheGeicoE (1743174) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252445)

Most people don't know that large airliners can't fly without FAA-issued aviation war risk insurance to cover planes, passengers, crewmembers, and third parties against terrorist acts like the September 11 attacks. Private insurance will only cover $50 million, which is less than the replacement cost of a Boeing 737.

Re:Airlines want government insurance too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253443)

Hogwash, I can get a used one for $3.5 million.

http://www.controller.com/listingsdetail/aircraft-for-sale/BOEING-737-300/BOEING-737-300/1227383.htm?

Re:Airlines want government insurance too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253807)

Nobody needs insurance. Don't like the rates, become an insurance company.
You need 50 million dollars of insurance to fly your plane? Great, throw 50 million into your own insurance company, and you're set.

Insurance companies mitigate our risk and take a profit on top of that unless they bet badly on our risk.

They have a pile of money, and are willing to bet it on the odds of whatever they are insuring.

Pooling Risk (1)

djl4570 (801529) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253521)

Insurance carriers have been a driving force in automotive safety for a long time albeit not always in a way automotive enthusiasts appreciate. Lloyds of London got its start insuring shipping when losses and damage were common. Ship and cargo owners pooled the risk. As a result leaky worn out ships cost more to insure. The same approach can be applied to space flight. There is no reason why the insurance industry would not insure commercial space launches so long as they sell enough policies to pool the risk. They will force four to six sigma quality at every step of the process because lower quality will cost more.

The private companies should pay (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254039)

Sorry, I for one think subsidizing SpaceX to buy insurance is wrong. I would prefer welfare mama's all be given Cadilacs. Want to be in the space business, pay your own way.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>