I was looking through the historical record and found that over time the money input into rocket development has yielded more performance benefits. I imagine that the development cost has reduced because of productivity enhancements (like computers and robotics) and better understanding of structural and combustion physics. That said, the development cost of a reasonable sized rocket (such as a cubesat launch vehicle) is still very high, locking out everyone except for the best funded companies. I was seeing how this cost could be brought down and the best two approaches I found was the following:

  1. Standardizing mechanical/pneumatic/hydraulic/electrical connections between sections to allow reuse of components developed for prior rockets on new rocket (making rocket LEGOs to let designers focus on configuration design instead of part design and reduce fabrication costs)
  2. Develop a reusable rocket and find a way of flight testing it incrementally so a new vehicle isn't required every new flight (the aircraft development approach)

However, this is just what I came up with, I was wondering what approaches other people might come up with. How would you reduce the cost of developing a new rocket?

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    $\begingroup$ Chatty, open-ended questions tend not to be the best fit for our Q&A. Please refer to our How to Ask page and try to edit your question to be specific, identifying what would constitute best answer that could be supported by facts and expertise rather than opinions. Otherwise, your list is a good start. Like any industry, you'd also want to create more "products" you could sell, so developing the market to increase launch rate is another point to add, as is payload miniaturization, "destinations", some "products" could also live with reduced reliability, on-orbit serviced to increase lifetime,... $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 2:20
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    $\begingroup$ ... development of launch assist systems, (partially or completely) removing Tsiolkovsky rocket equation and developing beam-powered propulsion systems, orbital rings, interplanetary cyclers, using the environment better (solar sails, magsails,...), moving parts of the industry to gravitationally shallower, resource rich places, use of orbital fuel depots, development and use of better, maybe self-healing materials, automation,... I mean the list is endless really. But, as always, it takes money to save money. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ Access to NASA records, studies, designs was fundamental for SpaceX and others. $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 3:51

1 Answer 1


One possible approach has been shown by SpaceX over the past few years:

  1. Use a common engine for all stages, instead of having different engine designs for each stage.
  2. Use a common tank design for all stages. This means you only need one set of jigs and tools for all the bulkheads and only one welding installation.
  3. Design for low cost instead of maximum performance. For instance, use a simple open-cycle engine design.
  4. Make the rocket easy to handle instead of making it as light as possible: no balloon tanks, but a more rugged design (this also helps with reusability).
  5. Design for manufacturability. For instance, make the tank walls from thick-enough plate, instead of a thin skin with stringers (which would be lighter, but take a lot longer to build).
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    $\begingroup$ You forgot the fundamental approach of SpaceX: 0. Be a second mover. Take experienced people from TRW. Take the designs they worked on, while they were at TRW. Take the design from Barber-Nichols, Inc., which had design, integration, and testing heritage. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 13:48

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