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November 28, 2019
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is looking to buy insurance cover for a domestically launched space satellite, the first since it began launching satellites in 1975.
Two factors explain the space agency’s quest for satellite insurance. First is an unexpected setback in Project Chandrayaan-2, which cost nearly INR10bn ($139.4m), and second is the success of ISRO’s Mars mission, which brought down reinsurance rates for Indian space exploration activities.
Of nearly 75 satellites launched by ISRO, less than a quarter were insured – as the organisation to date has not seen any point in insuring domestic launches. However, while ISRO has not insured launches conducted on Indian soil, it has typically insured launches done in partnership with other countries, such as Russia and the US.
One such example is the 1982 launch of INSAT-1A, an Indian-US joint venture. Launched in 1982 via a Delta rocket, its altitude control propellant was exhausted by September of that year, leading to the abandonment of the communications satellite. ISRO lodged an insurance claim and received a payout of $12m.
New India Assurance and other state-owned insurers were typically those tapped to provide cover for these projects, with reinsurance from the international market.