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December 10, 2010

Zubrin lowballs

In his "The New Sputnik" article, Dr. Bob Zubrin states:

The Falcon-9 medium-lift booster (capable of launching 10 tons to orbit) and Dragon capsule (potentially capable of upgrade to transporting up to 7 astronauts) system was created on a combined budget on the order of two hundred million dollars.

To the best of my knowledge, this is simply not true. Before Dec.8, COTS paid out 253 million to SpaceX. However, one of conditions of the contract was for the winning companies to finance about half of their expenses from other sources. So, there were another 250 million, although I am not certain what counts towards it. Elon invested about 100 millions out of pocket, his friends gave 35 and 60 millions in two rounds (and perhaps more). The government of Malaysia paid about 11 million for a launch of Falcon 1. There were other payments, too. For instance Elon said that a U.S. government agency, unnamed, but other than NASA, fully bankrolled the previous, test launch of Falcon 9 (that would be about 40 millions). Some of this counts towards the mandated 250 millions mentioned above, some was before and could not count. All in all, a reasonable estimate floating in the press was about 600 million dollars. Even if it is off, it cannot be as low as 200 million. No way no how.

UPDATE 2011/02/10: Tim Hughes, VP and Chief Counsel, SpaceX said at FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference that to date, SpaceX spent $800 million in total, of which $600 million spent on Falcon 9 and Dragon program.

UPDATE 2011/05/04: Elon Musk has made the following statements (in rolling updates, permalink to follow):

The total company expenditures since being founded in 2002 through the 2010 fiscal year were less than $800 million, which includes all the development costs for the Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon. Included in this $800 million are the costs of building launch sites at Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral and Kwajalein, as well as the corporate manufacturing facility that can support up to 12 Falcon 9 and Dragon missions per year. This total also includes the cost of five flights of Falcon 1, two flights of Falcon 9, and one up and back flight of Dragon.

The Falcon 9 launch vehicle was developed from a blank sheet to first launch in four and half years for just over $300 million.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 09:27 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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