November 7, 2019
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, was a surprise guest at the U.S Air Force Space Pitch Day, an event for startups and businesses to talk to the military. During the event, Musk boldly said that launching Starship will cost about 1% of what NASA is currently paying.
“If you consider operational costs, maybe it’ll be like $2 million. This is much less than even a tiny rocket, so it’s something that needs to be made.”
Musk said during a conversation with Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, at Los Angeles Air Force Base.
To put that price tag into perspective NASA on average spends approximately $152 million per launch, meaning SpaceX Starship launches will cost about 1.3% of what NASA is currently paying.
Starship will have the ability to embark on a journey to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Will consist of a reusable spaceship capable of accommodating 100 passengers and over 100 tons of cargo, stacked atop a massive Super Heavy, reusable rocket booster. [Read Starship technical details in my previous article. Click Here.]
Starship Mk1 at SpaceX South Texas Facility in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville, Texas. Source: SpaceX
The first prototypes of Starship, Mk1 and Mk2, are currently under construction at their facilities in Boca Chica Beach, Texas and in Cocoa, Florida.
Musk said the final version of Starship's Super Heavy rocket will only use $900,000 worth of propellant to get off Earth and into orbit. Making this vehicle the most affordable option to launch anything into space compared to any smaller rocket. For example, a launch of SpaceX’s much smaller rocket Falcon 9 currently costs $62 million, that is more than thirty times Musk’s target price of $2 million for a future Starship launch.
To achieve that price tag, SpaceX is on a very aggressive timeline to finish developing and testing a massive rocket capable of being reused over and over again. "SpaceX has made some progress in reusing the booster," -But that's still only part of the rocket, SpaceX has made progress toward the goal of full reusability by frequently re-flying parts of their Falcon 9 rockets and their Dragon cargo capsules. "It's absolutely profound to have a reusable rocket." Musk added.
The company will attempt to reuse a Falcon 9 booster for the fourth time next week, on their upcoming Starlink mission. [Read about the next Starlink mission. Click Here.] As well as, reuse and recover the same rocket's fairing for the second time.
The goal is to launch and land multiple times with little maintenance, like a commercial airplane. Musk said:
"With respect to space, I think there's really just one problem, which is a fully and rapidly reusable orbital rocket. This is the holy grail."
Full rocket reusability will be a huge technological achievement because it will significantly reduce the cost of spaceflight, enabling SpaceX to create a new future where humans are a space-faring civilization.