Shotwell: Reusable Falcon 9 Would Cost $5 to $7 Million Per Launch

32 Comments

Singapore Satellite Industry Forum 2013 — Opening Keynote

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell talks at the event last summer and discussed the price points for a reusable Falcon 9. The comments begin at the 13:17 mark.

“If we get this right, and we’re trying very hard to get this right, we’re looking at launches to be in the 5 to 7 million dollar range, which would really change things dramatically,” Shotwell said.

The main costs would be the initial investment in the stages, the cost of fuel, and mission operations expenses.

  • QuantumG

    A user has contributed a full transcript of this video: http://shitelonsays.com/transcript/singapore-satellite-industry-forum-2013-opening-keynote-gwynne-shotwell-2013-06-23 on which I only had to fix some spelling mistakes. This is the first non-Elon transcript on the website, as it was just too damn interesting, so hopefully it’s a harmless addition.

  • windbourne

    It will be far more interesting to see what the FH will costs, and to hear about the FX.
    Still, 5-7M for the F9, gives an idea of the upcoming ride that is about to happen.
    And BTW, if 14M can carry 7 ppl into space, well, Bigelow Aerospace will quickly become the second private company for space that will go big.

  • windbourne

    thanx quant.

  • Tonya

    Bear in mind, we need to adjust the payload for reusable variants. The saving should be represented as cost per kg to orbit, rather than cost per rocket.

    We’re still very much guessing what a F9R with two reusable stages may be able to put into LEO.

  • mattmcc80

    Full reusability is also still several years away, and I imagine Gwynne’s $5-7M was the price after they accomplish recovering the second stage. Still, even just first stage recovery will put a healthy dent in launch costs.

  • Hug Doug

    just as a baseline, you could multiply by 3. so say 15 – 21 million for a reusable Falcon Heavy flight, probably more, depending on whether or not the center stage can be recovered.

    and that low of a price for a heavy-lift rocket would indeed dramatically change things.

  • Stuart

    Crikey, in a World controlled by accountants and financiers, at those prices why would anyone else develop their own launch system…?

  • windbourne

    national pride and job’s.
    Look at the SLS. Worst idea going.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    13,150kg to LEO, 4,850kg to GTO. It’s on the SpaceX website, and are the numbers for the F9-R. There may remain some question as to how recoverable the second stage might be from GTO orbits, but, according to Shotwell, the first stage is agnostic to second stage destination.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    How’d you calculate $14million for “7 ppl into space”?.

  • Stuart

    I totally agree windbourne and add ITAR.

  • windbourne

    Ok, what is wrong with ITAR?

  • windbourne

    7 million for the F9, but it does not include the dragon. But when NASA uses dragon, they get a new one over and over. The question is, will a re-usable dragon rider that lands on land, and can go for say 10x or more, how much will it costs? 7 million was just a guess.

  • Stuart

    Nothing really, it serves it;s purpose though some might argue it is restrictive.

  • windbourne

    Those numbers are if launched as eelv, not reused.

  • windbourne

    Well, it is restrictive. No doubt about it. However, it is also needed. Some of the equipment that I have worked on was under itar and yet, we had Chinese wanting it pretty bad. We were offered over a million to allow them to take it to China. What was interesting is that upon pointing out that itar and nsa would never allow it to flow to China, he said they export to itar friendly nation, where they could then forward it.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Fair enough. I am more wantonly optimistic regarding DragonRider reusability. If is does, in due course, touchdown propulsively on land, then I am willing to assume that the structure, electronics, life support will last for tens or even hundreds of missions, the thusters and abort/landing engines could well go for tens of missions before refurbishment/replacement and the heatshield would be replaced every 5-10 missions. In which case, your $7 million may be on the high side, but probably best to be conservative.

    Still, with Soyuz at $60+ million a seat and the shuttle at over $200 million a seat, $2million is certainly a good step in the right direction. Though with Mars colonisation in mind, they must have some sort of plan, where getting to orbit costs less than $100,000. It’ll be interesting to watch the costs gradually drop over the next 20 years or so.

  • Nickolai

    Just for fun, assuming those numbers are including re-use, and taking the lower bound of Gwynne’s estimate of 5 million, that gets you $380/kg. If I can build a 1kg satellite and launch it for $380, this approaches what a father and son can do on a weekend, which is a huge leap.

  • Chris Courtois

    LOL I would like two of them for 2018 please! Destination LEO, then Mars, baby! :-) Wow… I knew it I’ve been telling everyone “overnight drop in price the day SpaceX bring back the 9 to the pad”. Also I’ve been saying “ULA and Ariane will suffer greatly possibly for a whole decade when it happens”.

  • Chris Courtois

    Oh and that new Ariane rocket… with solid boosters… LOL… those guys are going bankrupt by the end of the decade.

  • Tombomb123

    I like your enthusiasm!

  • Hug Doug

    just a brief note here, CubeSats have a maximum mass of 1.33 kg – would be spectacular to be able to build and launch one for less than the cost of a used car.

  • DougSpace

    First stage recovery = 9 out of 10 engines recovered! Healthy dent indeed.

  • Paul451

    Musk estimated that the first stage is responsible for 3/4 of the launch cost in an expendable launch. So $40m/launch. If they can quarter the cost through reusability, that knocks $30m of the launch price.

  • DougSpace

    …or daughter!

  • Paul451

    “we have about 3300 organic employees”

    “Organic”?

  • Mader Levap

    Well, they aren’t robots, so they are certainly organic. Carbon-based life forms. ;)

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Jobs perhaps. How many countries don’t have an aircraft industry or car industry or silicon chip foundry, and if they don’t then they are largely happy to import or host foreign (read multi-national) companies – it comes down to economic pragmatism. Why should “national pride” only apply space launch?.

  • Stuart

    This may be the wrong thread but is the Soyuz system vastly overpriced at $60 million a seat just because there isn’t currently an alternative? What should the real price be?

  • windbourne

    Whatever the market will bear. The real problem is that neo-cons would rather pay Russia 500 million / year for 7 years, than spend 1500 million on 3 different companies that will kill the SLS.

  • Mader Levap

    Thanks, and no harm done. In fact, this site could become collection of important/interesting things said by NewSpace people in general, describing for posterity how this whole “reusable rocket” innovation got into being, what hurdles had to be defeated and stuff.

  • Mader Levap

    I do not think 7m$ will happen any time soon, and certainly not with current F9.
    Isn’t always like this? Detractors deny that something will happen at all, and followers are unreasonably optimistic about schedule of that something.
    Reality is that it will happen, but way, way latter.