Poll

What is the *cost* of a commercial SpaceX Dragon2 flight?   (Not price to the customer)

Less than $30 Million
8 (7.1%)
$30 to $40 million
7 (6.2%)
$40 to $50 million
13 (11.5%)
$50 to $60 million
18 (15.9%)
$60 to $70 million
4 (3.5%)
$70 to $80 million
20 (17.7%)
$80 to $90 million
12 (10.6%)
$90 to $100 million
12 (10.6%)
$100 to $150 million
13 (11.5%)
More than $150 million
6 (5.3%)

Total Members Voted: 113

Voting closed: 11/19/2021 08:17 pm


Author Topic: What is the *cost* of a commercial SpaceX Dragon2 flight? (Not price)  (Read 9060 times)

Offline freddo411

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Assume this cost fully covers all operations for the training, launching and landing including use of the Dragon2 capsule, use of a first stage booster, and any expended hardware.

This is the entire flight ... all seats inclusive
« Last Edit: 09/20/2021 09:39 pm by freddo411 »

Online trimeta

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Is this supposed to be per-seat or for the whole capsule and its crew?

Offline freddo411

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Is this supposed to be per-seat or for the whole capsule and its crew?

The entire flight.   All seats inclusive.

Offline niwax

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$20m for a 10-flight F9, $20m for a 5-flight Dragon.
Which booster has the most soot? SpaceX booster launch history! (discussion)

Offline laszlo

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Respectfully, what's the point of this poll? Is the cost known and the closest guess wins a terrific prize, like in the landing bingo? Or is this a set of guesses but the actual cost will never be known unless someone at SpaceX totally violates their NDA? Or is there some other point?

Offline freddo411

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Respectfully, what's the point of this poll? Is the cost known and the closest guess wins a terrific prize, like in the landing bingo? Or is this a set of guesses but the actual cost will never be known unless someone at SpaceX totally violates their NDA? Or is there some other point?

Cost of the flight of a flight proven Falcon9 is pretty well established based on tweets from Elon and such.   The costs for training astronauts, running the astronaut recovery operations, refurbishing a Dragon2, etc are not public and I haven't even seen much speculation about it.

There's lots of talk about demand for space tourism.   Getting a rough estimate on the cost for this kind of a flight will inform discussions that are occurring here and elsewhere.   

Sorry, no prize for you or any other respondent.


Online KilroySmith

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Interesting question that I've often wondered about, but despaired of ever getting an answer to.

It doesn't matter to anyone other than SpaceX.  You'll never be able to buy a launch at SpaceX cost (businesses that sell products at cost don't remain as viable businesses very long).  It's of some importance to competitors such as Amazon's Project Kuiper, because it informs the decision making about how cost-competitive your service is compared with the competition.  It is of some importance to dreamers who wonder how cheap a ride to space could be someday.   It is of some importance to decision makers at the USAF and NASA, because it's a component of risk that they'll end up on the front page of a NYTimes expose ("NASA has cozy relationship, pays billionaire Musk $200 million per launch that only costs $12 million").

That said, based on their list price of $62 million to put 15,000 kg into LEO and not having any competitors in the market, I'm going to guess a reusable cargo launch COSTS SpaceX on the order of $15 million, and a Crew Dragon launch COSTS perhaps twice that.

Offline SweetWater

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Respectfully, what's the point of this poll? Is the cost known and the closest guess wins a terrific prize, like in the landing bingo? Or is this a set of guesses but the actual cost will never be known unless someone at SpaceX totally violates their NDA? Or is there some other point?

Cost of the flight of a flight proven Falcon9 is pretty well established based on tweets from Elon and such.   The costs for training astronauts, running the astronaut recovery operations, refurbishing a Dragon2, etc are not public and I haven't even seen much speculation about it.

There's lots of talk about demand for space tourism.   Getting a rough estimate on the cost for this kind of a flight will inform discussions that are occurring here and elsewhere.   

Sorry, no prize for you or any other respondent.

Training astronauts and running the recovery operations are hard for anyone to make an educated guess on - IMO anything from $25,000 - $100,000 per person would be reasonable, and could be higher - and while expensive if the average person is paying out-of-pocket, it is likely to be basically a rounding error in the context of the overall mission cost.

My guess is the cost to SpaceX is probably $90-100 million. $40 million price per seat has been floated as a possible introductory figure, and I'm assuming that's for a 4-person crew (Inspiration 4 looked comfortable with 4 people but I wouldn't want to be in there with many more for any length of time). That gives SpaceX a healthy profit margin.

Offline CameronD

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Training astronauts and running the recovery operations are hard for anyone to make an educated guess on - IMO anything from $25,000 - $100,000 per person would be reasonable, and could be higher - and while expensive if the average person is paying out-of-pocket, it is likely to be basically a rounding error in the context of the overall mission cost.

My guess is the cost to SpaceX is probably $90-100 million. $40 million price per seat has been floated as a possible introductory figure, and I'm assuming that's for a 4-person crew (Inspiration 4 looked comfortable with 4 people but I wouldn't want to be in there with many more for any length of time). That gives SpaceX a healthy profit margin.

Don't forget about insurance.. whilst not cheap at the best of times, cover for an "amateur astronaut" will be five figures at least.
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline rubicondsrv

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Don't forget about insurance.. whilst not cheap at the best of times, cover for an "amateur astronaut" will be five figures at least.

I don't know if I would count that as a necessary cost. 

The value of life insurance for the very wealthy is questionable except as a tax planning instrument. 


 
 


Offline watermod

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Since Elon Musk donated $50 million at the end of the flight my guess is that's what the flight and training and insurance cost SpaceX or it was the discount price they gave the mission.


Offline Cherokee43v6

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While we do not have numbers, we do have elements.

Lets start with the assumption that the flight is on pre-flown equipment.  Therefore the 'cost' of the flight would be composed of expenses related to:

1) Refurbishment cost of booster stage
     1b) Amortized cost of booster
2) New build 2nd stage
3) New build Dragon2 Trunk

4) Refurbishment cost of Dragon2 capsule
     4b) Amortized cost of Dragon2
5) Fuel/Oxydizer/crew consumables
6) Launch and Flight service personnel (Pad Ninjas - Launch/Mission Control)
7) Government launch/landing support services (NASA/Spaceforce/NOAA/FAA/FCC/Coast Guard/etc)
8 ) Crew/Passenger training
9) Custom space/flight suits
10) Recovery service personnel and ship wear and tear (Also, where does the ASDS expense reside? Is it a negative on successful recovery like an auto-parts core refund?)
11) Taxes and fees  ;D (Hey, it's on my phone bill!!!)

*bold indicates areas I'm assuming to be highest expense*

I'm gonna ballpark this in the $70 - $80 mln range
« Last Edit: 09/21/2021 02:45 am by Cherokee43v6 »
"I didn't open the can of worms...
        ...I just pointed at it and laughed a little too loudly."

Offline CameronD

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Don't forget about insurance.. whilst not cheap at the best of times, cover for an "amateur astronaut" will be five figures at least.

I don't know if I would count that as a necessary cost. 

The value of life insurance for the very wealthy is questionable except as a tax planning instrument. 

I'm not talking about life insurance.

When it comes to rocket launch, there are multiple levels of insurance required by the FAA/AST (and others no doubt) to cover both the possibility of the rocket impacting people on earth somewhere/anywhere and the possibility of you screwing stuff up in flight.  It's all part of being allowed to play with something that could destroy a small city - and if you're not covered, you don't go.  Training reduces the cost somewhat, but doesn't eliminate it entirely.

It's likely covered by SpaceX in this case and would vary depending upon whether or not you're a passenger (who's not allowed to do anything) or a pilot (someone who can), but because there are so few companies offering it and the risk is enormous, the premiums are eye-wateringly steep indeed! 
« Last Edit: 09/21/2021 03:32 am by CameronD »
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Online Zed_Noir

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While we do not have numbers, we do have elements.

Lets start with the assumption that the flight is on pre-flown equipment.  Therefore the 'cost' of the flight would be composed of expenses related to:

1) Refurbishment cost of booster stage
     1b) Amortized cost of booster
2) New build 2nd stage
3) New build Dragon2 Trunk

4) Refurbishment cost of Dragon2 capsule
     4b) Amortized cost of Dragon2
5) Fuel/Oxydizer/crew consumables
6) Launch and Flight service personnel (Pad Ninjas - Launch/Mission Control)
7) Government launch/landing support services (NASA/Spaceforce/NOAA/FAA/FCC/Coast Guard/etc)
8 ) Crew/Passenger training
9) Custom space/flight suits
10) Recovery service personnel and ship wear and tear (Also, where does the ASDS expense reside? Is it a negative on successful recovery like an auto-parts core refund?)
11) Taxes and fees  ;D (Hey, it's on my phone bill!!!)

*bold indicates areas I'm assuming to be highest expense*

I'm gonna ballpark this in the $70 - $80 mln range


Will point out that personnel pay and recovery hardware operating cost will be fixed annual overhead cost regardless of how many missions that those personnel and hardware supported annually. So a relative low fraction of the total cost per crew Dragon flight on a Falcon 9.


Also includes the negative cost of any milestone payments from either NASA or DoD on each crew Dragon launch. AIUI NASA pays for insight on non NASA crew Dragon missions.


Offline rubicondsrv

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I'm not talking about life insurance.

When it comes to rocket launch, there are multiple levels of insurance required by the FAA/AST (and others no doubt) to cover both the possibility of the rocket impacting people on earth somewhere/anywhere and the possibility of you screwing stuff up in flight.  It's all part of being allowed to play with something that could destroy a small city - and if you're not covered, you don't go.  Training reduces the cost somewhat, but doesn't eliminate it entirely.

It's likely covered by SpaceX in this case and would vary depending upon whether or not you're a passenger (who's not allowed to do anything) or a pilot (someone who can), but because there are so few companies offering it and the risk is enormous, the premiums are eye-wateringly steep indeed! 


so nothing different than normal launches.

I dont see how a manned capsule meaningfully changes the risk to outside parties.


Offline freddo411

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While we do not have numbers, we do have elements.

Lets start with the assumption that the flight is on pre-flown equipment.  Therefore the 'cost' of the flight would be composed of expenses related to:

1) Refurbishment cost of booster stage
     1b) Amortized cost of booster
2) New build 2nd stage
3) New build Dragon2 Trunk

4) Refurbishment cost of Dragon2 capsule
     4b) Amortized cost of Dragon2
5) Fuel/Oxydizer/crew consumables
6) Launch and Flight service personnel (Pad Ninjas - Launch/Mission Control)
7) Government launch/landing support services (NASA/Spaceforce/NOAA/FAA/FCC/Coast Guard/etc)
8 ) Crew/Passenger training
9) Custom space/flight suits
10) Recovery service personnel and ship wear and tear (Also, where does the ASDS expense reside? Is it a negative on successful recovery like an auto-parts core refund?)
11) Taxes and fees  ;D (Hey, it's on my phone bill!!!)

*bold indicates areas I'm assuming to be highest expense*

I'm gonna ballpark this in the $70 - $80 mln range


Will point out that personnel pay and recovery hardware operating cost will be fixed annual overhead cost regardless of how many missions that those personnel and hardware supported annually. So a relative low fraction of the total cost per crew Dragon flight on a Falcon 9.


Also includes the negative cost of any milestone payments from either NASA or DoD on each crew Dragon launch. AIUI NASA pays for insight on non NASA crew Dragon missions.



Largely agree. 

I tend to look at the SX human space flight expenses as mostly already paid for by the NASA crew contract.   Sure there are additional marginal costs like custom spacesuits, fuel for the recovery ships, insurance, range fees and so on, but the fixed costs are probably already amortized.

Reuse plays a big part of this

I think the cost for a dragon2 flight is surprisingly small.   My guess is 40 million

Offline Barley

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I dont see how a manned capsule meaningfully changes the risk to outside parties.

Flight termination criteria should be different.

For an uncrewed flight you'd terminate on any significant deviation from nominal.
For a crewed flight you don't terminate unless it's heading for somewhere dangerous.

If your trying for the ISS and the rocket is heading to GEO transfer*  the response should depends on whether there is a crew aboard.

At the very least a crewed flight will try for an abort first, which will delay the flight termination by a few msec.

Any delay will be some increase in risk, whether it's a meaningful increase in risk ... . 

* Dumber mistakes have been made, part of a safety officers job to be prepared for inexplicable errors.

Online Comga

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I made a guess just to see what others are thinking.
We really have no idea, do we?
Numbers are all over the place.
Were we supposed to learn something from this?
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline freddo411

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I made a guess just to see what others are thinking.
We really have no idea, do we?
Numbers are all over the place.
Were we supposed to learn something from this?

Yes, discussing this can produce some interesting conclusions.   

We do have some data about SX launch costs.   We are lacking in other data.    Sometimes new data comes to light as a thread evolves;  there are a lot of knowledgeable sources on this forum.

It wouldn't be a very interesting question if it had an answer that anyone could google or get from wikipedia.

Offline RotoSequence

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Respectfully, what's the point of this poll? Is the cost known and the closest guess wins a terrific prize, like in the landing bingo? Or is this a set of guesses but the actual cost will never be known unless someone at SpaceX totally violates their NDA? Or is there some other point?

Francis Galton showed that the collective aggregate of crowd knowledge tends to be surprisingly close to the real number, coining the "wisdom of crowds" (though some bias corrections are needed). The aggregate polling data will probably be in the ballpark, but is likely to trend low.

Offline intrepidpursuit

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While we do not have numbers, we do have elements.

Lets start with the assumption that the flight is on pre-flown equipment.  Therefore the 'cost' of the flight would be composed of expenses related to:

1) Refurbishment cost of booster stage
     1b) Amortized cost of booster
2) New build 2nd stage
3) New build Dragon2 Trunk

4) Refurbishment cost of Dragon2 capsule
     4b) Amortized cost of Dragon2
5) Fuel/Oxydizer/crew consumables
6) Launch and Flight service personnel (Pad Ninjas - Launch/Mission Control)
7) Government launch/landing support services (NASA/Spaceforce/NOAA/FAA/FCC/Coast Guard/etc)
8 ) Crew/Passenger training
9) Custom space/flight suits
10) Recovery service personnel and ship wear and tear (Also, where does the ASDS expense reside? Is it a negative on successful recovery like an auto-parts core refund?)
11) Taxes and fees  ;D (Hey, it's on my phone bill!!!)

*bold indicates areas I'm assuming to be highest expense*

I'm gonna ballpark this in the $70 - $80 mln range

I would guess that dragon refurbishment is one of the most expensive parts of the mission. They have to replace the whole outer shell including TPS and heat shield for every mission (the heat shield can theoretically last multiple missions but they haven't tried that afaik), repairs from water landings which probably means rebuilding the whole reaction control system, packing new parachutes and covers, etc. I would guess it costs more to refurbish Dragon 2 than it does to refurbish Falcon 9, and I think likely more than the cost of a new upper stage.

Offline laszlo

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I would guess that dragon refurbishment is one of the most expensive parts of the mission. They have to replace the whole outer shell including TPS and heat shield for every mission (the heat shield can theoretically last multiple missions but they haven't tried that afaik), repairs from water landings which probably means rebuilding the whole reaction control system, packing new parachutes and covers, etc. I would guess it costs more to refurbish Dragon 2 than it does to refurbish Falcon 9, and I think likely more than the cost of a new upper stage.

Makes me wonder what's the point. Don't forget that all the avionics, cabling, etc. Even if everything is saltwater-proof, it still needs to to be tested and re-certified for carrying live meat. The dry landers (Soyuz, Shuttle, Starliner) had/have a big advantage over the splashers as far as re-usability is concerned.

Just a thought, the big problem is with salt water. I wonder if landing in a fresh water lake would improve things. For high-inclination flights not landing in Winter, the Great Lakes might be a better place to splash down to reduce costs. Each is bigger than the demonstrated error ellipses and has great transportation infrastructure to retrieve and send the capsule and contents to anywhere in the world without salt water intrusion.

Offline Blackjax

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Looks like we now have some better insight into this question

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=43154.msg2295324#msg2295324

Quote
"One thing worth mentioning is that Elon confirmed the marginal launch cost (no overhead) for reusable Falcon 9 is $15M."

Now all you need to do is speculate on the marginal cost of a used Dragon.

Online DigitalMan

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Since Elon Musk donated $50 million at the end of the flight my guess is that's what the flight and training and insurance cost SpaceX or it was the discount price they gave the mission.

I donít think so. I4 was over $150m at that point, I think it was just a round number to get them over $200m. The dude has a bunch of kids, he was always going to donate.
« Last Edit: 11/07/2021 12:04 am by DigitalMan »

Offline DeimosDream

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Looks like we now have some better insight into this question

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=43154.msg2295324#msg2295324

Quote
"One thing worth mentioning is that Elon confirmed the marginal launch cost (no overhead) for reusable Falcon 9 is $15M."

Now all you need to do is speculate on the marginal cost of a used Dragon.

Pretty sure the $15M is the marginal cost to expend a used F9 booster.

Full recovery/refurbishment/integration/launch cycle with associated overhead is closer to $28 million.  https://twitter.com/thesheetztweetz/status/1250820281536413700

It seems likely that Crew-dragon recovery/refurbishment/overhead is more expensive than for the booster, so a Dragon2 flight could easily be $50M+ even without amortization.

 

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