SpaceX ups pre-launch insurance coverage by 5X after FAA mandate

The SpaceX launch scheduled for the pre-dawn hours of today was postponed due to high winds in the Cape Canaveral area, and has been tentatively rescheduled for Thursday, March 16 at 1:35 am. Viewers can watch the launch live on the SpaceX webcast.

This upcoming mission is intended to place the Echo Star XXIII communications satellite into geosynchronous earth orbit.

The FAA granted a license for the launch, which will take place from historic launch pad 39A, on March 1. That license brought with it a requirement that SpaceX carry $63 million in pre-launch liability insurance — five times the amount required for previous flights. The insurance is intended to cover any damage to government property in the event of an accident prior to liftoff.

A Falcon 9 rocket exploded on a nearby Air Force launch pad during pre-flight testing last September, doing extensive damage to the launch facility. Previously, the government required only $13 million in pre-launch insurance coverage. The resupply mission to the International Space Station in February was not required to carry extra insurance.

SpaceX carries separate insurance to protect government property during the actual launch itself, but in the event of an explosion or other mishap, the rocket could damage the launch area or other parts of the space facility. Neither SpaceX nor the FAA have revealed details about why the increased level of insurance is being required for this flight.

Update March 14 at 3:00 pm EST

Later this month, SpaceX will attempt the first re-use of a Falcon 9 rocket when it attempts to launch an 11,700 pound SES 10 telecommunications satellite built by Airbus. The first stage of that rocket flew previously on April 8, 2016 when it launched a Dragon capsule on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. It was the first rocket to be successfully recovered at sea.

It has been fully refurbished and has been declared ready to be used again. The re-use of the rocket is with the full knowledge and cooperation of SES, the Luxembourg based owner of the satellite.

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