I Wonder What Lloyd’s Would Say?

I’ve heard a lot of people recently referring to a Griffin talk at the Mars Society, where he called the COTS program a “bet” or a “gamble”. The obvious implication being that the Stick and NASA “business-as-usual” is a sure thing, and those risky, unserious, alt.space companies can’t possibly really be able to deliver stuff cheaper than the status quo. Space is hard dangit! The reason why NASA is so expensive has nothing to do with the fact that they’re a make-work nerd-welfare program. It has nothing to do with the fact that the decision making process for funding most of its programs is little better than porkbarrel politics. It is only because physics is just so onforgiving. I mean, just because every other form of transportation which wasn’t mostly controlled by the government has become drastically cheaper over time doesn’t mean that that could possibly still apply for space transport. The laws of economics have no jurisdiction above 100km after all!

Ok, enough sarcastic strawman bashing. I guess my main point after hearing the “oh-so intelligent skeptics” out there is that I wonder what Lloyd’s would say. The X-Prize was funded using an insurance policy. Basically, the X-Prize foundation paid the ~$2M or so that it had raised to-date to buy a policy that would be worth $10M if someone won the prize before the deadline, but worth $0 if they didn’t. I wonder what Lloyd’s of London would say about the relative odds of a crewed CEV flying on Ares I before a COTS provider flies people to orbit. If you were to propose two policies, one betting that the CEV would win, and one betting that COTS would be first, I wonder which would have the better premium?

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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5 Responses to I Wonder What Lloyd’s Would Say?

  1. Neil H. says:

    Instead of Lloyd’s, I wonder if something like the will cover COTS. It already allows you to place bets on things like presidential elections, bird flu, and the capture of Osama bin Laden.

  2. Neil H. says:

    Erm… my earlier comment was supposed to have a link to the intrade prediction market, but I forgot to terminate the link tag.


  3. Karl Hallowell says:

    My experience is that Intrade/TradeSports doesn’t like contracts that will take more than a year to expire. They do a few (in particular a bunch associated with the US presidential elections and who gets to be nominated from each party), but these are contracts that you can safely assume will trade in large volume. As I understand it, the key problem is finding a market maker to cover the contract. They did have a short term contract associated with whether the Mars rovers would work, so they will do the occasional space claim.

  4. Rand Simberg says:

    Ummm…I’m pretty sure that the X-Prize was only ten million, not twenty.

  5. Jon Goff says:

    Thanks for catching that. That’s what I get for blogging late at night in a snark mood. Much easier to get hoist on one’s own petard that way.


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