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When will commercial space launch be priced at less than $500/pound?

In the 1980s, long before Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos got into the commercial space business, Europe's Arianespace pioneered the commercial space payload launch industry.

In recent years, with hundreds of launches under the belts of Arianespace and American commercial launchers like United Launch Alliance, the industry has been reshaped by the entrance of Musk's SpaceX and his Falcon 9 rocket, which is taking market share from the longtime players in the commercial space game. A Falcon 9 launch to low-earth orbit currently costs just under $60 million per launch, the "cheapest rocket in the industry." Competitors are scrambling to keep up.

To add to SpaceX's competitive advantage, on March 30 the company successfully relaunched a previously launched and landed first stage. Projections estimate cost savings as up to 40%.

How much do these launches actually cost per pound? Currently, the best-case fully loaded Falcon 9 configuration can deliver cargo to low earth orbit for $1,233 per pound ($2,719/kg). In 2004, however, Musk stated that launch costs of $500 per pound ($1100/kg) were "very achievable."

When will commercial space launch prices reach $500 per pound ($1100/kg)?

This question will resolve when a credible news story or corporate press release announces a launch pricing structure for any commercial space company in which the price to launch to low-earth orbit, divided by the fully-loaded cargo capacity, is less than or equal to $500 per pound or $1100 per kilogram, or the equivalent in foreign currency.


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