March 31: The recent large reduction in space launch cost

The cost of space launches has decreased massively in recent years, after around fifty years of fairly steady costs.

Source: Wendy Whitman Cobb, The Conversation
Published: March 2019

The recent large reduction in space launch cost

The biggest hurdle to space exploration is disappearing. The cost of space launches has decreased massively in recent years, after around fifty years of fairly steady costs. When NASA’s space shuttle was in operation, it cost $1.5 billion to launch 27,500 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), or $54,000 per kilogram. Now, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket costs $62 million to launch 22,800 kilograms to LEO, or just $2,720 per kilogram. 

Many other private companies, such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, are vying for prominence in the field, but SpaceX’s exceptionally low launch cost has successfully set it apart from contenders.

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