Not every payload (or even batch of payloads) needs super-heavy launch capacity, but that seems to be what SpaceX is doing.


SpaceX plans to eventually phase out the big rocket, which has yet to fly, as well as the Falcon 9 booster and Dragon capsule

Why? The cost of launch is going to go right back up once SpaceX gets out of the medium lift market.


2 Answers 2


The current cost per launch of Falcon 9 is \$62 million. According to the planned launch cost BFR will be cheaper to launch than Falcon 1. That means it's cheaper than a marginal $7 million per launch.

Elon provided a chart that compares the launch costs of different rockets at his BFR presentation:

Comparison of the Marginal Cost per Launch of different Rockets

Even when BFR only carries a small payload it will still much cheaper than Falcon 9 to bring the small payload into orbit. Reusability is that important for lowering the price.

  • $\begingroup$ The marginal costs per launch are what matters to SpaceX when it thinks about getting rid of the Falcon 9. $\endgroup$
    – Christian
    Feb 10, 2018 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ (Had to delete original comment because of format weirdness of dollar signs.) Your graphic is for "marginal cost per launch", which means that it does not take into account the cost of developing the Raptor and BFR and won't cost USD 7M/launch. That's because the actual launch cost must also help to repay the R&D and tooling costs. The NextBigFuture link you references actually says "cost per flight of USD 20-40 million." It's still lower than the current F9 launches, but is pretty ambitious. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Feb 10, 2018 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ They'd better consider fixed costs like R&D, or SX will bleed money faster than Tesla. :( $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Feb 10, 2018 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn : It's not Elon Musks ambitious number. The more ambitious number would be the cost parity to transcontinental flights that Elon talked about in the BFR video. That would suggest costs below 1 million per launch. $\endgroup$
    – Christian
    Feb 10, 2018 at 11:51
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ R&D costs are irrelevant to the decision to drop F9 once BFR is built. (C.f. “Sunk cost fallacy”) If the marginal costs of using one rocket for all missions is cheaper than two types, then that wins. Then you price it at what the market will bear. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2018 at 2:15

SpaceX won't exit the medium lift market. They plan to use BFR for small payloads too. BFR, unlike Falcon 9 enables reuse of the second stage, they hope this will make BFR cheaper to run than Falcon 9.

  • $\begingroup$ They may hope the payloads will get bigger too when launching them gets cheap enough. $\endgroup$
    – jkavalik
    Feb 10, 2018 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ wait, are you saying they will use a FH when a F9 would do the job? Or am I misunderstanding? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 11, 2018 at 2:52
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ They will use a BFR when an F9 would do the job. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Feb 11, 2018 at 7:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ They will also use a Falcon Heavy in reusable mode when a Falcon 9 expendable would do. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Mar 4, 2018 at 17:23

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