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According to the new research paper by Edgar Zapata, who works at Kennedy Space Center, the supply services offered by SpaceX and Orbital ATK have cost NASA two to three times less than if the space agency had continued to fly the space shuttle. For his analysis, Zapata attempted to make an “apples to apples” comparison between the commercial vehicles, through June 2017, and the space shuttle.
Specifically, the analysis of development and operational expenses, as well as vehicle failures, found that SpaceX had cost NASA about $89,000 per kg of cargo delivered to the space station. By the same methodology, he found Orbital ATK had cost $135,000 per kg. Had the shuttle continued to fly, and deliver cargo via its Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, it would have cost $272,000 per kg.
…The detailed study then attempts to calculate the costs of the commercial cargo and crew programs combined, comparing that total to continued shuttle flights, which could carry both supplies and astronauts at the same time. Zapata’s best estimate is that the commercial programs cost only about 37 to 39 percent of what it would have cost NASA to continue the space shuttle program.
The benefits of the private programs go beyond cost savings, however. With multiple providers, NASA now has redundancy in case of a failure of supply lines to the space station. And there are indirect benefits as well, especially from supporting the efforts of US companies to develop new spacefaring technologies.
None of this is really news. There was once a time in the U.S. where these facts were understood without much thought. Americans once knew that private enterprise, competition, and freedom always work better than government-imposed projects. Today however we live in a post-freedom America, where the idea of depending on Americans to use their innovative talents freely to get things done is considered oppressive and racist, and must be squelched by a much wiser government.