Why are SpaceX rockets cheaper? – ProVsCons (2023)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket costs $60 million and a Falcon Heavy launch costs $90 million. By comparison, ULA's Delta IV Heavy costs $400 million for a single launch.

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NASA and SpaceX are building next-generation rockets. NASA builds the Space Launch System (SLS) and SpaceX builds the Starship. The SLS will cost a billion dollars per launch, but the Starship will cost less than the launch price of the Falcon 9.

Why are SpaceX rockets cheaper?SpaceX's rockets are cheaper because SpaceX makes more than 80% of its rocket parts in-house; They design, build and test their rockets under one roof, and their rockets are reusable. In addition, they also reuse their costumes.

Let's stop on this.

In October 2001 and February 2002, Elon Musk visited Russia. Elon wanted to buy decommissioned Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) to send a small greenhouse to Mars and livestream the entire event to rekindle people's enthusiasm for space exploration. Both times, however, Elon returned empty-handed. A senior space engineer even spat on Elon Musk once.

So why did you want to buy ICBMs instead of missiles? That's because American and European missiles were prohibitively expensive at the time, something Elon couldn't afford.

Elon realized that all rocket launches are expensive because everyone launches a rocket once, and after delivering the payload, they throw away the entire launcher. It's like using a car or a plane for the first time.

So Elon decided to start a rocket company to fulfill his dream of colonizing Mars. He invested $100 million of his own money into SpaceX from PayPal sales in 2002.

Reusable rockets:

From day one at SpaceX, Elon insisted on reusing rockets. As a result, the development of the first Falcon 1 took another two years.

SpaceX builds and flies reusable rockets. No other company could match that. It doesn't matter how cheap a rocket is; no company can beat the price of a reusable rocket. Even the Chinese and Indian space agencies can't beat SpaceX.

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Putting a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit costs about $60 million. Falcon 9's fully reusable first stage costs around $45 million. If it weren't for a reusable stage, $45 million would be lost to the ocean after each launch. But SpaceX built Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy as a partially reusable rocket, because the upper stage of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy is not yet feasible to reuse.

However, SpaceX is currently building a fully reusable Starship rocket. This intra- and interplanetary missile can be used hundreds of times with minimal servicing.

Videos of yesterday's capture of the two halves of the fairingpic.twitter.com/yzTDFzlulL

— SpaceX (@SpaceX)July 21, 2020

Recovery and reuse of coatings:

A payload (satellites) sits on top of a rocket. Two halves of the fairing protect the satellites from the atmosphere as the rocket ascends into space. When the atmosphere clears, the rocket discards these fairings as they are no longer needed.

These fairings cost around $10 million. All space agencies and rocket companies shed these disguises except SpaceX.

SpaceX fairings have built-in parachutes. SpaceX also has a costume retrieval ship with nets that will detect these costumes. After the necessary revision, SpaceX will reuse these fairings. This saves millions of dollars.

Vertical integration:

Initially, SpaceX tried to outsource some of its rocket parts to outside vendors. During the development of Falcon 1, they needed a valve and contacted a supplier for the valve. The contractor said that it will take him 1.5 years and half a million dollars to do this. SpaceX asked them to build the valve in 6 months and offered them around $100,000. This salesman laughed and said good luck with his ambitions.

SpaceX realized that they could not count on suppliers for this valve. So they decided to do it themselves. In six months, they designed, built, tested, and qualified the valve for their rockets. And the best thing is that it costs much less than initially estimated.

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On another occasion, SpaceX required a thermal shielding material called PICA (Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator) for the Dragon capsule. However, the creators of PICA were asking for much more money than SpaceX expected. So SpaceX decided to go it alone and created PICA-X, which is superior to PICA and 10 times cheaper.

Since then, SpaceX has manufactured almost all of its rocket parts in-house. SpaceX actively and passionately avoids third-party providers. They are not dependent on vendors. So he saved a lot of money.

Flat Management y Lean Manufacturing:

SpaceX does it all under one roof in Hawthorne, California. From design to construction, everything happens in one place. Rocket raw materials go in one end, fully reusable rockets go out the other end.

Let's compare SpaceX's lean manufacturing to NASA's deep space exploration systems.

NASA makes a rocket called Space Launch Systems (SLS). According to current estimates, it costs around a billion US dollars per launch. NASA also makes a capsule called the Orion.

NASA contracted Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Jacobs, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman to build SLS and Orion. These four contractors currently have more than 3,800 vendors in all 50 states.1. Here is the complete list of providers on the NASA website.

At the moment, this whole process of building rockets at NASA is absurd. That's why it costs NASA more to build and fly a rocket.

The same applies to the United Launch Alliance (ULA). They also have hundreds of vendors supplying rocket parts. The ULA is assembling its rocket. They even buy rocket engines from Russia.

But SpaceX designs and manufactures more than 90% of its rocket parts in-house under one roof. The open plan design facilitates discussion and problem solving. Even Elon Musk works in a booth with other engineers.

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Simpler design:

Elon Musk loves simplicity. He brought that mindset to the SpaceX culture. SpaceX strives to make its rockets easier to use every day. A simpler rocket is a cheaper rocket.

For example, NASA's space shuttle program was a huge undertaking, employing tens of thousands of engineers on each launch. By contrast, a small team of engineers maintains the Russian Soyuz. The main difference between these two was the design. The space shuttle program was a very complex launch vehicle compared to Russia's Soyuz. Therefore, more engineers were needed.

Here is another example. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket has three types of engines and two types of rocket fuel. Russian-made RD-180 first stage engines, solid fuel boosters, and upper stage vacuum rocket motors. The RD-180 uses kerosene and oxygen for RP-1 rockets, and the upper stage uses hydrogen and oxygen. This makes this unique rocket complicated and expensive.

By contrast, SpaceX uses the same Marlin engines in the first and upper stages. In addition, both stages use the same type of fuel: RP-1 rocket kerosene and oxygen. As a result, SpaceX rocket production is cheap compared to the competition.

Silicon Valley mentality:

SpaceX is the prime example of the Silicon Valley mentality. SpaceX hires young engineers who work hard and enjoy new challenges. Set fire fast and slow. Make, break and fix is ​​his motto.

Unlike Blue Origin, SpaceX isn't afraid to show its flaws. They broadcast live each of their rocket launches. As a result, talented engineers want to work at SpaceX and achieve the next big thing. So they solve all rocket problems in unconventional ways and make SpaceX rockets cheaper.

Missile insurance:

Every missile that carries a payload is insured. Missile insurance premiums depend on the reliability and price of the missile. Even if a missile is 100% reliable, the cost of missile insurance would be higher if launch costs were high.

For example, the Delta IV Heavy will cost $400 million to launch and the Falcon 9 will cost $60 million. Both missiles are very reliable. But the Delta IV Heavy costs more to maintain than the Falcon 9. As a result, the Falcon 9 saves more money and is cheaper than other missiles.

Final note:

In short, from the very beginning, Elon Musk and SpaceX strove to make their rocket reusable and inexpensive. They use a number of sophisticated techniques to make their rockets affordable for their customers, not just the government, but also private satellite companies.

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Why are SpaceX rockets cheaper? ›

(SpaceX launches are still cheaper than comparable rides offered by their competitors, however, in part because SpaceX flies reusable rockets.)

How is SpaceX cheap? ›

SpaceX rocket boosters usually return to Earth in good enough condition that they're able to be refurbished, which saves money and helps the company undercut competitors' prices.

What is the cost difference between a NASA rocket and a SpaceX rocket? ›

How much cheaper is SpaceX than NASA? SpaceX estimates that Falcon Heavy missions can cost under $100 million. To compare, NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) will cost an estimated $2 billion per launch for similar missions.

How much cheaper are reusable rockets? ›

Raptor 2 engines are half of the cost of Raptor 1. SpaceX will mass-produce Raptor engines and targets engines costs getting down to $200,000 to $300,000 each. This would put the price of the SpaceX Starship as low as $3-5 million each. The SpaceX Starship is already 5 to 10 times cheaper than an airplane.

How much do SpaceX rockets cost? ›

Falcon 9 is a partially reusable medium lift launch vehicle that can carry cargo and crew into Earth orbit, produced by American aerospace company SpaceX.
Falcon 9.
Cost per launchNew: US$67 million (2022) Reused: US$50 million? (2019)
HeightFT: 70 m (230 ft) v1.1: 68.4 m (224 ft) v1.0: 54.9 m (180 ft)
46 more rows

What is special about SpaceX rocket? ›

First privately funded fully liquid-fueled rocket to reach orbit. First privately developed liquid-fueled rocket to put a commercial satellite in orbit. First private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft. First private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).

Does SpaceX underpay? ›

Most of the 4,100 plaintiffs, however, will only get $500 each. In 2016, a PayScale survey revealed that Tesla and SpaceX, both high-profile companies helmed by Elon Musk, are two of the lowest-paying employers in tech.

What makes the Falcon 9 so cheap? ›

CEO Elon Musk attributes the low cost of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket to its modular design and engineering choices, as well as to SpaceX's preference for making its own components rather than outsourcing.

Why will Starship be so cheap? ›

The SLS is not a reusable system. The Starship, on the other hand, aims to be SpaceX's first fully-reusable rocket — the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy had an expendable second stage. This is part of the reason why Starship's flight costs could end out 200 times cheaper per flight.

Why are SpaceX rockets cheaper than NASA? ›

SpaceX is 10X cheaper with 30X lower cost overrun than NASA in lifting payload into space. Why? Because SpaceX is platform-based, NASA not. “The space race is dominated by new contenders,” claims The Economist (18 October 2018).

How much more efficient is SpaceX than NASA? ›

The results are clear in a statistical analysis of NASA and SpaceX projects. In 118 space missions, NASA saw an average cost overrun of 90%. Over 16 missions, SpaceX saw an average cost overrun of 1.1%. SpaceX projects tended to take an average of about four years, while NASA projects averaged about seven years.

Is rocket Lab cheaper than SpaceX? ›

SpaceX: Buy 2nd Place For 98% Less.

How much money has SpaceX saved by reusing rockets? ›

Elon Musk's SpaceX saved NASA $500 million.

How much does 1 gallon of rocket fuel cost? ›

According to a NASA-published fact sheet, LOX and LH propellant costs the Agency about $1.65 a gallon.

Do reusable rockets save money? ›

In August 2020, Elon Musk tweeted that refurbishment and reuse of a booster is done for less than 10% the price of a new booster while the payload reduction is below 40%. According to his tweet, SpaceX breaks even with a second flight per booster and saves money from the third flight on.

What is the most reliable rocket? ›

Once upon a time, United Launch Alliance had the world's most reliable rocket -- and charged NASA a premium to ride it. Today, a new rocket has taken the crown of "most reliable" -- SpaceX's Falcon 9.

Does SpaceX make profit? ›

SpaceX first became profitable in 2013 after launching the Falcon 9 rocket. The company's profitability has grown massively as it became one of the world's most prosperous space transportation firms.

How much fuel do SpaceX rockets use? ›

The two Solid Rocket Boosters generate a combined thrust of 5.3 million pounds, equivalent to 44 million horsepower or 14,700 six-axle diesel locomotives or 400,000 subcompact cars. At liftoff, the two Solid Rocket Boosters consume 11,000 pounds of fuel per second.

What advantage does SpaceX and its rockets have over its competitors? ›

By manufacturing a smaller number of systems in larger volumes, SpaceX is able to achieve better economies of scale and lower prices.

What are the benefits of SpaceX? ›

Health Insurance & Wellness Benefits
  • Dental Benefits.
  • Disability Insurance.
  • Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
  • Health Insurance Benefits.
  • Life Insurance.
  • Team workouts.
  • Vision Benefits.
  • Wellness Programs.

What is SpaceX best known for? ›

SpaceX has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones. It is the only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, and in 2012 our Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station.

How much do SpaceX employees get paid? ›

Spacex pays an average salary of $66,656 and salaries range from a low of $58,581 to a high of $76,129.

What is the lowest salary at SpaceX? ›

Spacex Salary
  • $72K. Per Year. Bottom 10%
  • $124K. Per Year. Average.
  • $170K. Per Year. Top 10%

How much does SpaceX make an hour? ›

How much does Spacex pay? Spacex pays its employees an average of $25.75 an hour. Hourly pay at Spacex ranges from an average of $18.14 to $37.00 an hour.

Why is Starship cheaper than Falcon? ›

Starship could launch hundreds at a time, up from about 60 that can fit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Despite its power and bigger size, the rocket system is intended to be cheaper than the Falcon 9, primarily because of its reusable design.

Why is lowering the cost of spaceflight so important? ›

a) Low cost spacecraft are equally or more reliable than high cost spacecraft. b) Lower cost can dramatically improve reliability for the end user by: allowing multiple spacecraft on orbit, shortening the schedule, and reducing the probability the program will be cancelled.

How much is NASA paying SpaceX? ›

NASA obligated $2.04 billion to SpaceX in fiscal year 2022.

Enlarge / SpaceX's Falcon 9 B1067. 2 and Crew Dragon spacecraft at LC-39A in advance of the Crew-3 mission that launched for NASA in November 2021.

How much cheaper will Starship be? ›

Elon Musk said SpaceX's Starship launches will cost less than $10 million within 2-3 years. Musk predicted that one Starship rocket launch could cost a few million dollars in the future. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket currently costs customers $62 million to launch.

Why is NASA using SLS instead of Starship? ›

It's more powerful, far less expensive, and fully reusable, and it can launch hundreds of times a year—not once. Those who have focused on the "space race" this year between SLS and Starship have missed the point.

Is Starship cheaper than SLS? ›

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk expects Starship to be far cheaper than SLS in the long run. In a press briefing in February he said he was "highly confident" that within a few years Starship launches could cost less than $10 million.

Are SpaceX rockets better for the environment? ›

Fumes from SpaceX and Blue Origin's rockets could harm health and the climate, a study showed. It said the concentration of nitrogen oxides released by a rocket was "hazardous to human health." The rise in launches by commercial space firms may have a big impact on the climate, per the study.

Why is it cheaper to launch rockets from the equator? ›

It's easy to notice that most launch sites are located close to the Equator. This is because rockets launched from sites near the Equator get an additional natural boost that helps save the cost of putting in extra fuel and boosters.

Who has the best space technology in the world? ›

1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA. At the top of the list stands the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and for all the right reasons. NASA is a United States government agency responsible for science and technology in relation to air and space.

Who has the best space technology? ›

12 Most Advanced Countries in Space Technology
  • Republic of Korea (ROK) Number of Objects Launched as of 2021: 43. ...
  • Italian Republic. Number of Objects Launched as of 2021: 52. ...
  • Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Number of Objects Launched as of 2021: 53. ...
  • Canada. ...
  • Federal Republic of Germany. ...
  • Republic of India. ...
  • French Republic.
Dec 18, 2022

Are rockets less efficient in space? ›

On Earth, air tends to inhibit the exhaust gases getting out of the engine. This reduces the thrust. However, in space since there is no atmosphere, the exhaust gases can exit much easier and faster, thus increasing the thrust. Therefore, the rocket engine actually works better in space than here on Earth.

Does SpaceX save NASA money? ›

It has lowered the cost of spaceflight through innovations such as reusable stages and fairings, saving NASA money.

How much would it cost to buy SpaceX? ›

Since it's a private company, there is no SpaceX stock price, but its latest round of funding gave the company a valuation of $127 billion.

Are solid rockets cheaper? ›

Solid propellant rockets are typically cheaper and easier to build, while liquid propellant rockets are more reliable and can generate more power.

How many times has SpaceX failed? ›

Since March 2006, SpaceX has launched 5 Falcon 1 and 204 Falcon 9 rockets. Of these 3 Falcon 1 and 2 Falcon 9 launches were complete failures and one Falcon 9 launch was a partial failure.

How much money has SpaceX saved taxpayers? ›

Specifically, what he told the subcommittee was this: "General Hyten, [then] the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told me last year ... the fact that we have competition now on going to space -- just for the military -- has saved them $40 billion in launch costs."

How many times can SpaceX rocket be reused? ›

A Falcon 9 booster can be reflown up to 100 times with refurbishment in between flights.

Which type of rocket fuel is cheaper? ›

A: Liquid fuel and solid fuel are used at different times of a spacecrafts flight because of their different qualities. Solid fuel is cheaper than liquid fuel but it cannot be controlled as well.

What is the most efficient rocket fuel? ›

The rocket's main engines use a combination of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Hydrogen has the lowest molecular weight of any known substance, making it ideal for keeping the weight of a rocket relatively small. When combined with liquid oxygen, hydrogen creates the most efficient thrust of any rocket propellant.

Is rocket fuel just kerosene? ›

The petroleum used as rocket fuel is a type of highly refined kerosene, called RP-1 in the United States. Petroleum fuels are usually used in combination with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

What are the pros of reusable rockets? ›

Reusable rockets are superior to conventional, single-use rockets because they are cheaper to launch. This might be a direct result of their reusability, or it might be because of the inherent advantages these new commercial space launch companies hold over their antiquated competitors.

How much money does SpaceX save by reusing Falcon 9? ›

The reuse of Falcon 9 not only included rebuilding the engines; Two metal parts that have the function of protecting the satellite during the journey to its final destination were also reused, the approximate cost of these parts is about 6 million dollars, according to information provided by SpaceX and Musk.

Can rockets be environmentally friendly? ›

"Liquid methane and liquid hydrogen can provide high thrust in a launcher that is still relatively compact." Despite being a very potent greenhouse gas, methane as a rocket fuel also seems to be quite environmentally friendly because of its burning efficiency.

Is Rocket Lab cheaper than SpaceX? ›

SpaceX: Buy 2nd Place For 98% Less.

Is SpaceX more efficient than NASA? ›

The results are clear in a statistical analysis of NASA and SpaceX projects. In 118 space missions, NASA saw an average cost overrun of 90%. Over 16 missions, SpaceX saw an average cost overrun of 1.1%. SpaceX projects tended to take an average of about four years, while NASA projects averaged about seven years.

Why does NASA pay SpaceX? ›

Much of the funding increase for SpaceX in 2022, an increase of about $400 million over the previous year, appears to be driven by contracts for the Human Landing System as part of the Artemis Moon Program and the purchase of additional Crew Dragon missions to the space station.

How much does SpaceX save NASA? ›

Here's one: NASA saved at least $548 million, and perhaps more, thanks to just one contract with Elon Musk's SpaceX. Last week, the US space agency tapped the company's Falcon Heavy rocket to launch a space probe to one of Jupiter's moons, Europa, in 2024.

How much does it cost to use SpaceX? ›

$275k for 50kg to SSO with additional mass at $5.5k/kg. Affordable rates also available to Mid-Inclination LEO, GTO, and TLI.

Does NASA pay SpaceX? ›

NASA on Wednesday announced it has awarded five more astronaut missions to Elon Musk's SpaceX, with a contract worth an additional $1.4 billion to the company.


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