The High Cost of Reaching the High Frontier

The table above is adapted from data in the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation: 2010 Year In Review report. Shown are data on commercial rockets for which there is information on launch costs. I also added in mission types (LEO, GEO and SSO) for those launches with price information. Note that for the Rockot, Soyuz 2 and Proton M, there were some flights for which there is no price information.

These figures provide us with a good guide to what getting into orbit costs and the competitive positions of the various providers. A few things to note:

  • The commercial rocket field is dominated by Russia, the United States and Europe. Dnepr is a Ukrainian rocket launched from Russia.
  • Aside from the parties listed above, no other country launched a commercial orbital flight last year.
  • Proton has the highest payload capacity to LEO, but it launches less to GTO than Ariane 5 and Delta IV Medium + (4,2) .
  • Proton prices for GEO missions are the lowest at $85 million. However,certain Proton flights are priced at $100 million, which is comparable to the Delta IV Medium + (4,2).
  • Falcon 9 is competitive with Soyuz 2 on price to LEO and can haul larger payloads to both LEO and GTO. However, there is a large flight history gap: Soyuz 2 traces its lineage back to 1966 while Falcon 9 entered service only last year.
  • Falcon 9 has a comparable payload to the Delta IV Medium + (4,2) to LEO. However, it has a somewhat smaller payload to GTO.
  • Dnepr and Rockot are both modified Soviet-era ICBMs serving the low end of the LEO market.