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Comparing the price of Falcon 9 with the Atlas 4.

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.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Kelly Starks

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

  • Kelly Starks

    Atlas V paid launches 2010-2019 49 –

    Falcons paid launches 43 (13 for NASA)

  • Kelly Starks

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

  • wodun

    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.

  • Steve C

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

  • Kelly Starks

    >..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

    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

    >.. 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.

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