After its last policy expired due to delays created by its 2020 bankruptcy, OneWeb has signed a $1 billion insurance policy to insure the remaining 10 deployments for the broadband constellation. A previous multi-launch policy provided by insurance broker Willis ended on August 1, according to OneWeb, and competitor broker Marsh won the bidding for the remaining 56 percent of the constellation’s 648 members after it was placed out to market.
In a statement released September 2, Steven Fay, deputy chief financial officer at OneWeb, stated, “OneWeb is making progress on its next stage of expansion as it looks to accomplish its constellation and produce commercial service by the close of the year, and this deal offers an extra layer of security as our firm moves quickly toward realizing this goal.” OneWeb’s chief technology officer (CTO), Massimiliano Ladovaz, noted that the company’s next launch campaign with Arianespace will begin “later this week” in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. OneWeb 322 will be sent into low Earth orbit on September 14 by a Soyuz rocket.
According to an insurance source, despite growing insurance premiums in recent years, the Marsh and the Willis multi-launch regulations are quite similar. In the current market, OneWeb is claimed to have gotten insurance for less than half of the 5-6 percent normal rate for insuring the Soyuz launch. According to the source, the cost of insuring a solo Soyuz launch when the initial policy was implemented would have been under 2.25 percent. Its earlier package offer would have had a rate of under 2%.
Launch insurance costs have risen dramatically in recent years, given a string of launch mishaps, particularly those involving the Soyuz. The operator’s first insurance plan did not account for the hiatus in its launch effort when it filed for bankruptcy in March 2020, after the epidemic hindered its fundraising efforts.
In November, the firm emerged from bankruptcy under the new ownership, and the following month, it began its launch campaign. Since then, it has collected $2.7 billion in equity from a diverse group of foreign investors, $300 million more than the firm had estimated it would need to finance its inaugural satellite deployment.
So far, Arianespace’s nine OneWeb on Soyuz missions have gone off without a hitch. OneWeb’s insurance only insures the launch flight stage of the constellation’s deployment, not the year of the in-orbit coverage that bigger, geostationary (GEO) satellites typically have. OneWeb’s choice to keep insuring its LEO deployments bodes well for space insurance market as a whole, which has seen income fall due to a shift away from the GEO satellites, which have traditionally provided the majority of its revenue.
For example, SpaceX has determined that it has sufficient redundancy in its plans for the hundreds of satellites in the LEO Starlink constellation. Hence, it will not seek insurance coverage for these flights. So far, SpaceX has launched over 1,700 Starlink satellites.