NASA has awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a $1.79 billion contract to build 18 new space shuttle R-25 engines for its still unlaunched SLS rocket.
In plain math, that equals $100 million per engine. Since SLS uses four of these engines per launch, and since that rocket is entirely expendable and will thus throw these engines away after each launch, that guarantees each SLS launch must cost no less than $400 million, about four times the price of a Falcon Heavy launch.
But wait, there’s more! Eric Berger at Ars Technica notes
NASA has previously given more than $1 billion to Aerojet to “restart” production of the space shuttle era engines and a contract for six new ones. So, according to the space agency, NASA has spent $3.5 billion for a total of 24 rocket engines. That comes to $146 million per engine. (Or 780,000 bars of Gold-Pressed Latinum, as this is a deal only the Ferengi could love.)
That means each SLS launch must cost a minimum of just under $600 million, and that’s just the price for the four engines. It doesn’t include the rocket itself, the ground systems, its upper stages, or any other component.
But wait, there’s more! Berger also reminds us that SpaceX estimates the cost to build each its Starship Raptor engines to be about $1 million, and each will be used multiple times. He also points out that the Raptor is actually more powerful than the R-25 engine.
That’s okay though. This is the federal government, run by Washington, whose goal for the few decades has been to let no project succeed, and to waste as much money as possible in the process. And if they can squelch the dreams and aspirations of everyone else as they do it, so much the better!
I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.
Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.
You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:
If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652
Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.