Space congestion increases collision risk

Space insurer warns of potential rise in claims as growing problem of space debris, and rapid escalation of new satellite launches, combine to reduce safety margins

London, UK (1 January 2024) A dramatic increase in satellite launches over the last five years, together with rising volumes of space debris, means that a higher frequency of collisions in lower Earth’s orbit could be inevitable, according to specialist global insurer Hiscox. 

The European Space Agency [1] estimates that more than 130 million pieces of junk – from defunct satellites, to spent rocket stages and even the smallest flecks of paint, all travelling at impact speeds of up to 15km per second – now orbit the Earth. At the same time, there has been significant growth in the number of satellites launched each year, bringing the total of active satellites from 1,187 in 2013 to 6,905 in 2022[2] – with operators like SpaceX planning ‘satellite constellations’ of as many as 42,000[3]  in the future – increasing the chances of a collision in space.

Pascal Lecointe, Space Line Underwriter at Hiscox said: “The risk of collision in the most crowded orbit – 800km from Earth – is now one in 1000. Just a few decades ago, when there were far fewer satellites and less space debris, the risk of collision was one in 1 million, and we’re likely to see that risk climb even more to perhaps 1 in 100 over the next decade. From an insurance perspective, those shortening odds would mean satellite failure from collision with space debris or other satellites will soon equal the risk of a technical failure while in orbit – which is why we’re already working with our clients to navigate their changing risk profile.”

Hiscox is working with Share My Space, a first-of-its-kind space surveillance company, using detailed data from its global network of powerful telescopes to assess the risks of collision in lower Earth’s orbit more accurately. 

Lecointe added: “With the growing risk of collisions, satellite operators are increasingly likely to need to manoeuvre their craft out of harm’s way. But to do so, they’ll need to know precisely when and where to guide their satellites in order to avoid a crash. That is where Share My Space can play such a valuable role; helping to actively reduce collisions and ultimately improve the risk profile for space operators.”

Additional regulation with regards to space debris is also likely to help, said Lecointe: “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the US agency regulating satellites, adopted a new rule in September 2022 requiring satellites in lower Earth’s orbit to leave their orbits and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere no later than five years after their missions. The FCC – which issued its first fine for an operator failing to properly dispose of one of its old communications satellites – may set a de facto global standard for commercial satellite operators, as their rule not only applies to US-licensed satellite operators but also global companies looking for access to the huge US telecoms market.” 


For further information please contact:



Carmel McCarthy               +44 (0)20 7081 4636


Notes to editors

About The Hiscox Group

Hiscox is a global specialist insurer, headquartered in Bermuda and listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:HSX). Our ambition is to be a respected specialist insurer with a diverse portfolio by product and geography. We believe that building balance between catastrophe-exposed business and less volatile local specialty business gives us opportunities for profitable growth throughout the insurance cycle.

The Hiscox Group employs over 3,000 people in 14 countries, and has customers worldwide. Through the retail businesses in the UK, Europe, Asia and the USA, we offer a range of specialist insurance products in commercial and personal lines. Internationally traded, bigger ticket business and reinsurance is underwritten through Hiscox London Market and Hiscox Re & ILS.

Our values define our business, with a focus on people, courage, ownership and integrity. We pride ourselves on being true to our word and our award-winning claims service is testament to that. For more information, visit




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