Behind The Black Postings By Robert Zimmerman

Comparing the price of the Falcon 9 with the Atlas 4.

Today’s launch was conducted aboard the “plain Jane” version of the Atlas V, the 401, which has no strap on boosters, a single upper stage engine and a 4 meter fairing. It was originally awarded to Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services in 2007 for a $124 million fixed fee contract. By contrast the first NASA science launch awarded to the SpaceX Falcon 9, that of the Jason -3 satellite for 2014, was for $82 million. With current pricing for similarly equipped Atlas V 401 vehicles for NASA launches at roughly $150 million, based on awards from 2011, the difference is hardly trivial.

In other words, Falcon 9 is almost half the price. No wonder satellite companies are flocking to buy a launch on it.

8 Comments
  1. Kelly Starks says:

    This is obviously a form of flocking that doesn’t involve a lot of contracts. ;)

  2. Kelly Starks says:

    Atlas V paid launches 2010-2019 49 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Atlas_launches_%282010-2019%29

    Falcons paid launches 43 (13 for NASA) http://www.spacex.com/launch_manifest.php

  3. Kelly Starks says:

    Opps scratch that, 2 of the 43 were before 2010 – and orbitcom, had multiple flights.

  4. wodun says:

    There is room for more than one launch provider and it looks like they both have customers, isn’t this a good thing? And SpaceX is a young company and already are scheduling a comparable number of launches as the established companies.

    There are probably penalties for pulling out of a contract, so companies are less likely to pull out of their current contracts to launch on a Falcon 9 but who knows about their launches after that?

    Also, there are significant differences in second stage performance. If SpaceX were to upgrade their second stage, they might get more business but maybe that doesn’t even matter. It all depends on the average mass of GEO satellites.

    • Kelly Starks says:

      >..There is room for more than one launch provider ..

      With the market in decline, were losing launch providers as they starve out. So there really isn’t enough to go around unless the market can be grown.

      • wodun says:

        And yet the two companies discussed here have a backlog of launches stretching past the foreseeable future.

        Which companies are being starved out and is it because of a lack of demand or because of costs?

        The one way the market wont grow is with NASA as the sole means of access to space. NASA needs to give up some of its control, like they did with those expandable habs that Bigelow is using. If NASA thinks they need a SHLV, they should use a COTS/CCDEV type of program that would allow other people besides NASA to use the SHLV.

        • Kelly Starks says:

          >.. And yet the two companies discussed here have a backlog of launches stretching past
          > the foreseeable future.

          There used to be more companies, but were down to 2. SpaceX has pretty much been funded by NASA who more then covered all their R&D and about 3/4ths all their expenses since day one, and until recently over half their bookings.

          Fewer and fewer launches, driving up costs, driving out competitors – especially ones without such heavy gov funding.

  5. Steve C says:

    On the subject of Space x, have you seen the tv ad that Siemens has been running showing a Falcon 9 launch?

    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=U1EJinxpx4Y&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DU1EJinxpx4Y%26feature%3Dyoutu.be

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