Assurance through Insurance and On-orbit Servicing

Rebecca Reesman, The Aerospace Corporation

On-orbit servicing is an emerging capability that can potentially revolutionize how satellites operate in space. The ability to fix anomalies or extend service life for aging satellites can change the way the industry views risk and develops mission plans. This paper examines some of the concepts and questions that will be important as this industry develops.

For example, the technology could have big implications for the satellite insurance market. The insurance underwriting process depends on various factors including the operating environment, new technologies, and business plans; all these factors could potentially be affected by on-orbit servicing capabilities. Moreover, the ability to restore lost capability on orbit could reduce risk for operators and insurers alike, and this risk reduction could be reflected in insurance premiums.

On the other hand, on-orbit servicing will require rendezvous and proximity operations, and these maneuvers carry additional risk—not just to the primary spacecraft, but to others in the same orbit. Servicing companies and their clients will need to need to address potential liability issues.

To gain the full benefit of on-orbit servicing, spacecraft developers will have to commit to design standards that accommodate servicing techniques. That will require a change in outlook. The servicing industry will have to build confidence through successful demonstration before such a change can be expected. Overall, the paper suggests, an open dialogue among the service providers, the satellite community, and the insurance sector will help this market reach its full potential.