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How much cheaper are SpaceX reusable rockets? Now we know

SpaceX, the pioneering rocket launch company founded by Elon Musk, famously advertises a launch cost of just $ 62 million for its Falcon 9 rocket, a price that has remained stable for four and a half years. Obviously, for most of the time, SpaceX has done this also he said switching to reusable rockets would allow the company to further reduce prices, by up to 30%.

So, four and a half years since the $ 62 million price tag was introduced, how much cheaper have SpaceX rocket launches become? Thanks to a series of contract changes just announced by the US Space Force, we finally know.

Half price rocket launch

Last week, Space Force announced that it will allow SpaceX to fly reused (or as SpaceX prefers, “flight-tested”

😉 Falcon 9 rockets to launch the next two government GPS III satellites. The government had previously insisted that such “national security” satellites be launched aboard brand new rockets, but SpaceX has successfully relaunched used rockets for other customers 38 times.

It seems like that’s enough to finally convince Space Force that this is a safe way to enter orbit and cheaper to boot.

Such as much cheaper? SpaceX initially agreed to launch these government GPS satellites for approximately $ 97 million each. But in exchange for permission to fly reusable rockets, SpaceX now claims it can reduce the price it charges Space Force for the next two launches by a total of $ 52.7 million – a savings of more than $ 26 million each – like BreakingDefense. .com reported last week.

Now, as compliance with government regulations adds costs to SpaceX’s normal advertised prices, Space Force will still end up paying more than $ 70 million each for these specific launches. But introducing cuts to reusability all launch costs of the same amount as it cuts government launch costs. If this is true, the “flight-tested” rockets could reduce the cost of a normal launch to just $ 36 million.

It’s even cheaper than the 30% cost reduction that SpaceX originally promised four years ago. In fact, it results in a cost reduction of over 40%.

What it means for SpaceX and everyone else

Space Force has already pledged to award 60 percent of its homeland security launch contracts to SpaceX’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) archivist in the period 2022-2027, with SpaceX receiving only 40 percent of the contracts. This award, announced two months ago, gives ULA some assurance that it won’t be immediately “discounted” by the space launch market due to SpaceX’s low prices – good news for Boeing (NYSE: BA) is Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), Co-owners of ULA.

To send-In 2027, however, things could get tough for Boeing and Lockheed, who face the prospect of completely losing Space Force contracts with SpaceX or cutting their prices to match SpaceX’s prices and sacrifice their profit margins accordingly. . (This could prove particularly problematic for Boeing. According to the latest data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, the business of Boeing Defense, Space & Security is currently only Boeing earns a profit.)

In the commercial space launch industry, the benefits of SpaceX may become even more clear. Unlike the US government, commercial businesses have no interest in paying one supplier more than another just to ensure there are more suppliers available to put essential payloads into orbit.

If SpaceX can launch commercial payloads for as little as $ 36 million, I honestly don’t see how ULA can compete with that, unless its new Vulcan Centaur rockets prove considerably cheaper than the Atlas V and Delta VI rockets it has flown so far. . Moreover, even foreign rocket launchers such as the Russian Roscosmos and the Indian PSLV could have difficulty competing.

$ 36 million is more expensive than the claimed $ 15 million cost of a expendable Indian PSLV rocket, which is arguably the cheapest launch vehicle this part of China. The PSLV, however, only has a payload capacity of about 1.8 tons compared to low Earth orbit, less than one-tenth of the 22.8-ton payload of the Falcon 9. Pound-for-pound, therefore, it would appear that there is no one on Earth capable of launching payloads into orbit cheaper than SpaceX.

Thanks to its reusable rockets, the global commercial satellite launch market could now be SpaceX’s for the taking.

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