SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket crushes its competition on cost

Feb 14, 2018

SpaceX is even ahead of the rest of the space industry than previously thought, according to CEO Elon Musk, who claimed on Monday that a “fully expandable” Falcon Heavy would cost only $150 million.

That’s about $250 million cheaper than the closest competition.

The company’s Falcon Heavy rocket became the world’s most powerful commercial rocket after SpaceX successfully completed its first launch on Tuesday.

SpaceX had said the cost of each Falcon Heavy launch starts at $90 million. But that price tag — a fraction of the cost of the next biggest rockets from competitors United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Arianespace — was a best-case scenario. It was unclear how much above the $90 million price tag a fully expendable version of Falcon Heavy would cost.

That’s about a quarter of a billion dollars less.

A fully expendable rocket is the maxed-out version, in which SpaceX would not try to conserve fuel or weight to recover parts. The company built Falcon Heavy out of three of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets, which has now completed dozens of successful launches over the last few years. By landing the rocket’s first stage, SpaceX is able to recover and reuse the largest piece of each vehicle, which had traditionally been discarded after a launch.

Part of last week’s successful launch was the recovery of two of Falcon Heavy’s three rocket boosters, which landed side by side on concrete pads at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It is unclear how ULA, a Boeing, and Lockheed Martin joint venture, will respond to Falcon Heavy. ULA’s most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, costs upward of $400 million per launch.

Musk said after Falcon Heavy’s launch that he wants “a new space race,” saying he thinks the rocket’s success will “encourage other companies and countries” to be ambitious in the same way as SpaceX.


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