How SpaceX lowered costs and reduced barriers to space

How SpaceX lowered costs and reduced barriers to space

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SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk(L), with NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Doug Hurley, Bob Behnken, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins seen inside the crew access arm with the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft visible behind them during a tour of Launch Complex 39A before the early Sunday morning launch of the Demo-1 mission, on March 1, 2019 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Source: JOEL KOWSKY / NASA / AFP

ON March 2, SpaceX plans to launch its first test of an unmanned Dragon vehicle which is designed to carry humans into low Earth orbit and to the International Space Station. If the test is successful, later this year, SpaceX plans to launch American astronauts from United States soil for the first time since 2011.

While a major milestone for a private company, SpaceX’s most significant achievement has been in lowering the launch costs that have limited many space activities. While making several modifications to the fuel and engines, SpaceX’s major breakthroughs have come through recovering and reusing as much of the rocket and launch vehicle as possible.

Between 1970 and 2000, the cost to launch a kilogram to space remained fairly steady, with an average of US$18,500 per kilogram. When the space shuttle was in operation, it could launch a payload of 27,500 kilograms for $1.5 billion, or $54,500 per kilogram. For a SpaceX Falcon 9, the rocket used to access the ISS, the cost is just $2,720 per kilogram.

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