Elon Musk’s spaceship launch will cost just $10 per kg: How it compares to ‘heavy lifters’ 5 decades ago

The Elon Musk-belonging SpaceXit is Spatialship is a launch vehicle that the company is developing and testing for orbital launch and for transporting humans and cargo beyond Earth.

What happened: Science, a peer-reviewed academic journal, shared a graph on Twitter on Sunday showing the height, payload capacity and inflation-adjusted cost per kilogram of some launch vehicles dating back to 1967.

The caption read: “Starship will be the biggest rocket ever. Are space scientists ready to take advantage?

Starship has a height of 120 meters compared to 111 meters for Saturn V – another super-heavy launch vehicle developed by NASA in 1967. Starship’s cost per kilogram for low Earth orbit is $10 compared to $65,400 for launching from Space in 1981. Shuttle Columbia, which was the most expensive of the five launch vehicles Science used for comparison.

Commenting on the tweet, Musk said, “Starship will be an incredible catalyst for science. Full reusability and high production rate results in orders of magnitude $/kg improvement in orbit and beyond.”

The billionaire added that the next-generation Starlink constellation would be the main user of this rocket. Therefore, he sees no need for science to cover the fixed cost.

A Twitter user shared a 2020 tweet from Musk which stated that the incremental launch cost would be less than $1 million for more than 100 tons in orbit and therefore the launch cost would be primarily determined by fixed expenses divided by the number of launches per year.

Musk also agreed with another tweet from one of his supporters, who said the Starship fleet was designed to achieve 1,000 times more payload in orbit than all other rockets on Earth combined.

Why it matters: Starship is the key to realizing Musk’s long-cherished dream of making the human species multi-planetary.

“We’re trying to achieve the holy grail of rocketry, which is the fully reusable rocket,” Musk told TV host Jay Leno during a Starbase tour, according to excerpts from a yet-to-air episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” shared by CNBC. He also noted that it can be flown back quickly like an airplane. “And it’s a critical invention that’s needed to make humanity a multiplanetary species,” Musk said.

The official “Jay Leno’s Garage” Twitter account shared a clip from the episode where Musk is seen giving an exclusive TV tour of SpaceX’s launch facility.

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