Space

SpaceX raises prices to lower them

SpaceX raises prices to lower ...
Spacex has updated its prices for sending payloads to Earth orbit, Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and even Mars
Spacex has updated its prices for sending payloads to Earth orbit, Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and even Mars
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SpaceX is trying to lower launch costs by making the Falcon 9 resuable
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SpaceX is trying to lower launch costs by making the Falcon 9 resuable
Spacex has updated its prices for sending payloads to Earth orbit, Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and even Mars
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Spacex has updated its prices for sending payloads to Earth orbit, Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and even Mars

SpaceX has done so well in bringing down launch costs that it's raising its prices. That may seem paradoxical, but all is not what it seems. As well as making great strides towards its goal of a reusable launch system with three sea landings in a row, SpaceX has made improvements in rocket engine technology which mean that while launch prices look like they are going up, they're actually going down.

If you regularly visit SpaceX's website you may have come across a list of prices for sending up payloads to Earth orbit (LEO), Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and even Mars, on the company's Falcon 9 and the still under development Falcon Heavy. Until recently, the price of a Falcon 9 launch was quoted as US$61.2 million. But a couple of weeks ago, this changed to US$62 million. At first glance, this clearly means for all of Elon Musk's boasts about wanting to bring down launch costs by 30 percent, that didn't stop SpaceX from jacking up the ticket prices by US$800,000 dollars. A clear example of corporate hypocrisy? Not really.

SpaceX is trying to lower launch costs by making the Falcon 9 resuable
SpaceX is trying to lower launch costs by making the Falcon 9 resuable

Though the new landing technology has yet to have any impact on launch costs, the improved engines on the latest Falcon 9 have. Between tweaking the efficiency of the nine Merlin engines and the trick of using supercooled liquid oxygen to carry more oxygen, SpaceX was able to boost the low Earth orbit (LEO) payloads carried by the Falcon 9 from 13,150 kg (28,991 lb) to 22,800 kg (50,265 lb).

Doing the sums, this means that under the old prices, a Falcon 9 cost $2,111 per pound to reach LEO, while the improved version costs $1,233 per pound. The reason why the overall price is higher is because the rocket now carries a much larger payload. It looks higher because launch costs are an all-or-nothing system.

To put this into perspective, if you book a flight on a plane that's half empty, you get your seat for the same cost and might even be able to get boosted to First Class for a nominal fee. On the other hand, if airlines, operated like launch companies, you'd have to pay for all the empty seats as well as your own. This is why SpaceX and others often launch multiple payloads and offer piggyback fares to balance the weight.

In other words, you get what you pay for. In this case, a lot more tonnage at a cheaper per pound cost.

Source: SpaceX

5 comments
PattyBrown
Buy more, save more! ;)
Johnny04
Wow, from 13,150 kg (28,991 lb) to 22,800 kg (50,265 lb). That's a big leap - 73% increase. I know that Elon wants to reduce the cost to below $1,000 per pound. I didn't know he's so close. With reusable rockets, that under $1,000 per pound seems to be in the bag. Now the goal is more like under $500 per pound.
GizEngineer
Re-usability has its own costs, and landing legs, extra propellant cut maximum payload. How all this will shake out in the end has to be determined.
mhpr262
AFAIK Musk has yet to actually reuse a first stage. It is amazing that they have been able to bring cost down so much, though. I remember reading many years ago that getting one pound of stuff into orbit was more expensive than one pound of gold. Seems like that info is now slightly outdated.
MichaelAarrh
"Re-usability has its own costs, and landing legs, extra propellant cut maximum payload." Landing legs and extra propellant are going to be far far less than the cost of a complete first stage: somewhere around $30 million, Elon Musk has said. Propellant, for example, costs less than a million dollars per flight. The real cost is going to be refurbishment: how much you have to do on a recovered first stage to be able to fly it again. If you basically have to rebuild it, you aren't saving anything (that's what happened with the Space Shuttle). If you can give it a quick check-over and fill up the tanks, you're going to have a tremendous savings. So far no one knows which one it is, except maybe SpaceX.