The nice wikipedia comparison table of space station cargo vehicles doesn't provide any hints on the price per kilogram for the cargo delivery to the ISS.

As it is usual with price per kilogram questions, the hard numbers can be hard to formulate. Yes.


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I suspect the core reason is that there is almost no way to come up with a meaningful number. Only Dragon and Cygnus have a chance of having real hard numbers, since they are actual commercial contracts, that are a pay for service.

Whereas ATV, HTV, Progress, and Shuttle are all government/national programs so it is next to impossible to reliably decide what should be included in their costs. In the case of Russia they are fairly opaque on real costs anyway. Consider how hard it was to get a real/meaningful cost for a shuttle launch.

Simplistically, for the initial CRS contract, NASA tendered a request for 20,000K to the station by each of the two bidders. Cygnus at 1.2 billion/20,000K is about 60 thousand dollars a kilo. Dragon at 1.6 billion for 20,000K would be around 80,000 dollars a kilo. But of course, CRS was also meant to pay back for some of the development of the systems. (Even so, 2.8 billion for 40,000K of cargo plus two complete launch systems and cargo vessels is a literal steal. That is probably less than one year of the SLS budget, for nothing real till 2021)

So the contract AFTER CRS will be the one of interest. Once SpaceX/Orbital have recouped development costs through a lucrative first contract, how much will the second services contract be worth? Presumably a lot less. (One hopes!)

  • $\begingroup$ I'd be all right with rough estimates in the spirit of "Progress is cheaper than HTV, which is roughly the same as ATV, and both are much cheaper than Dragon and Cygnus, and a delivery on Soyuz is the most expensive.". In fact it is the proper ordering I am after. $\endgroup$
    – user54
    Oct 24, 2013 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ @horsh It is unclear that any kind of real number can be obtained for Progress or Soyuz. We know what the Russians are charging for a seat on a Soyuz, $63 million. But what does it really cost? Are they losing or making money at that price? Very opaque. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Oct 24, 2013 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @horsh We also know that H2-B is about the most expensive launcher out there. (Hey a goal for SLS to beat!) So HTV costs are probably entirely opaque as well. ATV might be most possible, as an Ariane 5 launch cost can be reasonably found, I think 250 million per launch is a common number I have heard. Payload of 7667 Kilos and just using launch cost that is already 32K dollars a kilo. That is before any actual ATV costs. I suppose as long as the ATV itself costs less than 345 mill dollars or so it will beat the 80K/kilo of Dragon-CRS right now. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Oct 24, 2013 at 13:12

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