Why the SpaceX ‘ferry’ just truly launched a new Space Age
By Glenn H. ReynoldsNovember 19, 2020
This week, while Americans on the ground saw the embarrassment of lost counts and found ballots, a part of America that works was making history: SpaceX and NASA launched four astronauts into orbit and docked the SpaceX capsule Resilience with the International Space Station.
To launch a kilogram to orbit on the Space Shuttle cost almost $55,000. To do the same thing on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 costs a mere $2,700, roughly one-20th as much. Musk is promising that it will be a mere $200 on his next craft, the Starship.
A lot of things that are too expensive to do at $55,000 become profitable at $2,700 — and even more do so at $200. These are the kinds of cost reductions we are used to seeing in the electronics field, but not in the heavy-metal world of rockets
The lowered costs are already allowing SpaceX to launch its Starlink constellation of global broadband-Internet satellites, something that would have been unaffordable at Shuttle prices.
At $200 a kilo, all sorts of things become possible, from space hotels to asteroid mining to settlements on the moon and Mars. Space holds huge amounts of energy and materiel, but to take advantage of them, you have to get there. It’s now becoming a lot cheaper to get there.