(Reuters) - A UK insurer that recently began offering life coverage for would-be space tourists said it has seen no increase in interest in the policy following the fatal crash of a Virgin Galactic test space ship last month.
The policy, sold by
Pembroke Managing Agency, pays up to $5 million per traveler or $20
million per suborbital space flight, parent Ironshore International said
in announcing the policy in June.
policy has not sold yet and the initial response has been slow,"
Anthony Ruddell, a personal accident underwriter at Pembroke, said in an
interview, noting Pembroke spreads the risk through a Lloyds syndicate.
"But we anticipate lots more interest closer to when the first flights take off."
Galactic had expected to carry tourists by March 2015, founder Richard
Branson said, but the timeline lengthened after the company's
SpaceShipTwo broke up during a test flight over the Mojave Desert in
California on Oct. 31, killing one of two pilots.
are no suborbital space tourists yet, and insurers have so far not
excluded the activity from coverage as they do with hang gliding,
skydiving and other hazardous avocations. That means life policies
already in existence are likely to pay out if a space tourist eventually
dies on a flight.
insurers are expected to rethink and possibly change policies to ask
about or exclude space tourism as the 62-mile-high (100 km) rides join
other "extreme sports," albeit at a hefty price.
anticipate that when space tourism flights begin this may well be added
to the list" of excluded activities, Ruddell said. "Our product is
designed to cater for these types of exclusions," he said.
acknowledged that with tickets costing $250,000 on Virgin Galactic, the
market will be limited initially. Pembroke does not have an estimate of
the potential market size, he said.
as space tourism advances and develops, the potential for the market to
grow is huge," Ruddell said. "The sky's the limit."
did not comment on prices, but they are expected to mirror those of
satellite policies costing between 2.5 percent and 10 percent of the
insured amount, meaning premiums for tourists of between $25,000 and
$100,000 for a $1 million policy.
The Virgin Galactic crash destroyed a space craft made by Scaled Composites, a unit of Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N), that was being flown by Scaled Composites test pilots. U.S. investigators are focusing on pilot error as possible cause.
Galactic, an offshoot of Branson's London-based Virgin Group
[VIRGI.UL], now hopes to finish building a second SpaceShipTwo in
mid-2015 and begin test flights before the end of the year.