Sunday, September 25, 2011

Study: SpaceX Three Times Cheaper Than NASA

A SpaceX Falcon 9 undergoes final integration at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Image source:

Florida Today columnist John Kelly reports that, "Using a sophisticated model developed by the space agency and the Air Force," it cost SpaceX $443 million to develop the Falcon 9 but if it had been developed by NASA the cost would have been $1.4 billion.

To be clear, these are not SpaceX numbers. These are figures vetted by NASA and the Air Force. So, a long-standing cry that SpaceX is exaggerating its potential cost savings appears to be ill-founded.

At a broad level, the analysts determined that NASA's way would cost more because it would employ more people overall, add extra layers of management and construct more ground support "infrastructure" to get the job done. SpaceX also told the investigators that they keep as much work as possible inside their organization because "every dollar sent out of the company actually costs between $3 and $5 based on subcontractor overhead and profit."

UPDATE September 26, 2011Click here to read the summary of the NASA analysis.

And you can go here to learn more about the NASA/Air Force Cost Model (NAFCOM) used to perform the analysis.

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