SpaceX Lost Satellite on U.S. Mission Was Uninsured

By and | January 23, 2018

U.S. taxpayers may end up paying for the missing satellite launched by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. that crashed into the ocean earlier this month, part of a classified U.S. government mission dubbed “Zuma.”

Questions remain around the event, which appeared to be unsuccessful despite a fruitful rocket launch and first-stage landing. But SpaceX and Northrop Grumman Corp., the satellite builder, aren’t likely to bear the costs. They probably have contracts with the government that limit the firms’ liabilities tied to the lost satellite, according to several industry experts.

“Launching spacecraft into orbit is a risky business,” said Peter Elson, chief operating officer for the aerospace team at insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group Plc. “The policy of the U.S. government has been that they do not buy insurance. They rely on the taxpayer to foot the bill when things go wrong.”

SpaceX and the Pentagon declined to comment. Northrop did not respond to requests seeking comment.