90’s kids will remember the space shuttle launches that ferried astronauts and cargo to the ISS, but even the reusable shuttle was expensive, and so the program ended in 2011. According to the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, the shuttle was too complex, and money could be saved if the rocket was simplified. Simplifying a rocket. How hard could that be?
Well, after few crash landings and explosions, SpaceX seems to have the self-landing reusable rocket thing figured out. So, does this make space travel cheaper?
Space shuttle missions cost about 450 million dollars per launch, and while that sounds like a lot more than SpaceX’s price of $133 million, you have to remember the Space Shuttle was a beast of a craft, capable of carrying 50,000 pounds of cargo AND 7 crew members.
Broken down by the pound Shuttle flights cost about 10,000 dollars whereas a SpaceX Dragon stuffed to the gills costs 9,100 dollars for every pound of cargo. That’s well shy of Musk’s ultimate goal of bringing down the cost of space travel by a at least a factor of 10, but, he hopes to hit those numbers by launching more cargo at once on their next rocket; the Falcon Heavy.