Capitalism in space: in an excellent analysis of the total amount NASA will pay both SpaceX and Boeing for all their manned flights to ISS before the station retires, Eric Berger at Ars Technica has determined that the agency will essentially pay Boeing twice as much per flight.
In 2014, NASA narrowed the crew competition to just two companies, Boeing and SpaceX. At that time, the space agency awarded Boeing $4.2 billion in funding for development of the Starliner spacecraft and six operational crew flights. Later, in an award that NASA’s own inspector general described as “unnecessary,” NASA paid Boeing an additional $287.2 million. This brings Boeing’s total to $4.49 billion, although Finch told Ars that Boeing’s contract value as of August 1, 2022, is $4.39 billion.
For the same services, development of Crew Dragon and six operational missions, NASA paid SpaceX $2.6 billion. After its initial award, NASA has agreed to buy an additional eight flights from SpaceX—Crew-7, -8, -9, -10, -11, -12, -13, and -14—through the year 2030. This brings the total contract awarded to SpaceX to $4.93 billion.
Since we now know how many flights each company will be providing NASA through the lifetime of the International Space Station, and the full cost of those contracts, we can break down the price NASA is paying each company per seat by amortizing the development costs.
Boeing, in flying 24 astronauts, has a per-seat price of $183 million. SpaceX, in flying 56 astronauts during the same time frame, has a seat price of $88 million. Thus, NASA is paying Boeing 2.1 times the price per seat that it is paying SpaceX, inclusive of development costs incurred by NASA.
Despite the larger payments to Boeing, the company could very well lose money on Starliner. The higher cost to NASA from Boeing is due almost entirely because the agency was absorbing more of its initial development cost. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule had already been flying cargo missions to ISS when these manned contracts were awarded. SpaceX merely had to upgrade its manned capsule. Boeing had to design and build it from scratch. Moreover, the contracts were fixed price, which means Boeing had to absorb more than a half billion in additional costs when it had to refly the unmanned demo flight of Starliner.
Finally, because of the delays, Boeing won less NASA business. It also has gotten none of the private commercial manned flights that are going on right now. Those contracts went to SpaceX, including all the profits. Whether Boeing can eventually win some private contracts down the road is unknown. It will certainly have to lower its price to compete with SpaceX.
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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space
, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.
does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.
“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.
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