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Thursday, January 21, 2021

How Cheap is Elon Musk’s SpaceX Reusable Rocket?

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the soon-to-be reusable rocket launch company has been advertising its launch cost at just $62 million.This price has been fixed for the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket- and interestingly, this has been the price for over 4 years now. Nonetheless, we can’t forget that SpaceX has also been clamoring for a shift towards reusable rockets- something it claims would reduce the price of launches by 30%. Such a change is definitely unprecedented, and could have far-reaching consequences for the company, and space travel at large. 

So, the question that arises now is, how much has the price of SpaceX fallen now- after four and a half years of the $62 million price tag? We have information from the various contract modifications that the company underwent, as stated by the U.S. Space Force, which will help us understand the price modifications.

Reusable Rocket launches for half the price 

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The Space Force mentioned last week that SpaceX would be permitted to start flying reused rockets (Falcon 9) in order to launch the two government GPS III satellites. While the government did persist with the notion that any satellite which is of national importance or security has to be launched through brand new rockets. But they changed their position because SpaceX had, with a lot of success, re-flown their used rockets for 38 times by now. And when a rocket has re-flown to outer space so many times, even the Space Force is convinced that they should use the SpaceX launching rockets to get into orbit.

But what’s the price? SpaceX had initially decided on a price of around $97 million to send these satellites into orbit. But things have changed now- SpaceX has maintained that if they are allowed to use reusable rockets, the price can be cut down almost in half- the price charged from Space Force would probably come down to $52.7 million each. Yet, that might not be all the price that Space Force has to pay- government regulations add on to the existing sum- which means Space Force will still have to pay Elon Musk’s SpaceX $70 million. But it goes without saying, the very notion of reusability will actually cut every launch cost to as little as $36 million. And let’s be honest, such a deal is even cheaper than the original 30% cut that SpaceX had mentioned four years back. 

What it means for SpaceX — and for everyone else

Uptil 2027, SpaceX might not be able to get ahead of its competition- the United Launch alliance- which receives around 60% of the security launch contracts from Space Force. SpaceX receives around 40%. So, the ULA is not under intense pressure currently to explore other options or get phased out, but the next decade would probably herald a lot of different aspects into the world of space travel- something that might put SpaceX on the top of the world. 

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SpaceX’s reusable rockets can be a major pioneer in cutting costs and facilitating more space exploration. And if Elon Musk’s team can pull it off, they will secure all the security launch contracts that Space Force provides. 

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