Poll

What will be the typical price per seat for a person to fly to LEO and back in 2030?

<$1M/seat
7 (16.3%)
$1-5M/seat
16 (37.2%)
$5-10M/seat
6 (14%)
$10-20M/seat
4 (9.3%)
$20-40M/seat
7 (16.3%)
>$40M/seat
3 (7%)

Total Members Voted: 43

Voting closed: 02/15/2023 12:43 am


Author Topic: Market rate per person for a round-trip flight to LEO and back in 2030?  (Read 3081 times)

Offline jongoff

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Just curious to see what people think about this topic. Personally, I think that the metrics of round-trip price per seat and round-trip $/kg of cargo to/from a LEO space facility are going to be the biggest determinants of how successful the current round of commercial LEO destinations are. Right now, depending on how you do the math, and what assumptions you make, crew launch costs to a LEO facility are >$50M/seat, and round trip cargo to/from a facility is in the >$50k/kg range. At that price, most LEO human spaceflight applications are probably barely economically feasible. But as the round-trip price decreases, more business plans may be able to close.

The question is, by the time the ISS retires, where do you think we'll be compared to today when it comes to round-trip crew/passenger delivery prices for LEO?

Feel free to share your logic, and what you think will be the biggest contributors to the price being in the range where you think it will be.

~Jon

Online DanClemmensen

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I'm a wild-eyed optimist, so I voted <$1m. This assumes Crewed Starship is operating. This would be the price for a day-trip excursion in economy class with no docking or transfer to to another vessel or station.  If you want to spend a week on ISS or some other station, the whole trip will cost a lot more.

Offline mikelepage

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Voted $1-5m. Reasoning being that even if Starship only gets to Falcon 9 booster levels of reusability (20 flights each for Starship and Superheavy), day of launch prices of $20-25m are reasonable. 100% markup and 10-20 people per flight, I could easily imagine 1-week joy-flights to LEO going for $2.5m per person.

Offline Eric Hedman

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I voted 10 to 20 million.  I think it will continue to fall after 2030.  But I am not a wide eyed optimist on the pace of human space flight.  I think it will take a while to work out the kinks and build a flight rate that supports lower prices.  Plus, if SpaceX can fill up their capacity at the higher price, I think they will keep the prices up as high as they can.  I also think government safety standards will become tighter as more people fly and that will slow the descent of prices.

Offline jongoff

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I also voted $10-20M, even though I think that's a lot higher than the point where real magic opens up in the market ($1-5M/seat).

Basically, I think by 2030, Starship will still only be flying 12 people, and while I think it might have internal costs that could support prices below $10M/seat, that they'll only lower to those prices if driven to by external competition. My guess is at that point they may finally have one or two commercial competitors.

I have a hard time counting Starliner in that category (commercial crew launch comopetitors). Even if they get their capsule working reliably, I have a hard time seeing CST-100 ever getting down to even SpaceX's current $50-80M seat price, let alone down into the $10-20M range. I could see DC-200 or a reusable capsule flying on an at least semi-reusable launcher (if not a full RLV) like Falcon 9, Neutron, or New Glenn getting into this range.

The real wildcards are players like Radian or Stoke. If Radian is able to make their vehicle design close, it could potentially support seat prices below $10M (and my guess is that SpaceX would lower prices to stay competitive). If Stoke gets their vehicle flying, I could see them eventually making a crew-capable version. I could see that also getting into the <$10M/seat. But I think both of those are relatively long-shots for getting to a crew capability soon.

I hope I'm wrong. I think it's absolutely possible, with a fully reusable system to get crew/passenger seat prices to LEO <$1M, and maybe *eventually* even <$100k/seat. I just don't think we'll get there until we have multiple competing full RLV systems, and hundreds or thousands of people flying to orbit per year. Ie definitely not before 2030.

~Jon

Offline Robotbeat

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I do not know. I voted $1m-5m because I am suuuper skeptical that less than $1 million will be done in that time, I think over $40 million is too high, and the interval (in logarithmic terms) between 1 and 5 is larger than 5-10, 10-20, or 20-40.

This may require a bunch of people at once, though. And it may require Blue Origin to step up and provide an orbital crew solution for competition.

But SpaceX is already offering 12 passengers on Starship to the Moon on their website. If costs of that to LEO can be below $60m, that would allow below $5 million. (Maybe a lunar mission right now costs $500 million… factor of 2 reduction due to maturation, factor of 5 reduction due to lack of refueling needed and much shorter mission time and much lower TPS difficulty.)

For short missions of a few hours (not the days of going around the Moon), 50-100 passengers is easily doable (from a mass and volume perspective) in Starship (500 is the upper end). I think it may be a little sketchy to do that by 2030, but it is doable.

Something in between 12 and 50 may be pretty doable, as well.

I have a feeling it depends strongly on bargaining power. If you approach SpaceX with like $3 billion, looking for 1000 LEO passenger seats in total starting in 2030, you probably could work something out. If you want just a single seat on a shared launch, probably will cost like $10 million or more.
« Last Edit: 02/02/2023 03:20 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline RedLineTrain

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I voted $20-$40 million, if only because I think it will take Starship a while past 2030 to hit its stride and therefore crewed launch will still be relatively rare in 2030.  Falcon is just now hitting its stride, 13 years after introduction.

Starship is a large rocket, so all of the infrastructure takes longer to build out.  This is especially so if large seaborne structures need to be built for launch.  It could be that SpaceX needs to develop a large heavy industry subsidiary.  All this takes time.

That said, I'm long-term very sanguine about SpaceX's pricing trajectory.  In 2040, it should be rock-bottom pricing.

Offline DeimosDream

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I kept asking myself "more or less than $5M"... then I decided I was thinking in 2023-USD and should tack on 7-years of inflation. Besides, everything always takes just a little longer and a little more than one thinks for space travel.

$5-10M.

Offline jebbo

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Good question!

Crew flights to LEO won't begin until after they've established cargo reliability, so my bet would be the first crew launch around 2027. So by 2030, they should be increasing cadence. As for the number of crew, that depends on *destinations*.

By 2030, there should be a couple of low-capacity LEO stations (fingers-crossed), so a crew of maybe 10 to a station or 20 free-flying. Jon's 12 seems a reasonable average, as orbital-only jaunts are fairly pointless, but I'm slightly more optimistic and think $5-10M is possible, but nearer 10 than 5.

If large destinations like the VAST thing happen, prices could drop much further after 2030.

--- Tony
 




Offline jdon759

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Sorry,  I misread as "round trip to LLO."  I was thoroughly annoyed at how optimistic even the "worst" option was, so voted for it.

Given that it's actually LEO, I think $30-40m, but decreasing rapidly.  Since 2030 is just about when all the currently in-development manned vehicles will be hitting their stride. Note that this is assuming an optimistic inflation rate.

Offline jongoff

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Sorry,  I misread as "round trip to LLO."  I was thoroughly annoyed at how optimistic even the "worst" option was, so voted for it.

Given that it's actually LEO, I think $30-40m, but decreasing rapidly.  Since 2030 is just about when all the currently in-development manned vehicles will be hitting their stride. Note that this is assuming an optimistic inflation rate.

Oh wow. Yeah, for LLO in $2030, if we're doing even $100M/seat we'll be doing well.

~Jon

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