Before setting off to explore the final frontier, the government should evaluate how private companies insure their rocket launches, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office.
The insurance of private space launches - usually of satellites - is covered by the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1988. The government can pay claims of third-parties, i.e. civilians, who might be hurt by space-related accidents. But its never had to because any incidents have been covered by private insurance.
The GAO said its uncertain exactly how much the government might have to pay in the event an accident exceeds private insurance coverage. The Federal Aviation Administration has used the same method since 1988 to determine how much insurance private companies must purchase before a launch. And its unknown how space-launch companies could be impacted if they were required to purchase higher rates of insurance, the GAO said, adding that the whole situation needs to be better studied.