If the cost of putting objects in orbit is about 3000USD per kg, can I put a 10g object in LEO for 30USD? What about geosynchronous orbit?

Possible scenarios would be, for example, if one wants to spread the ashes of loved ones in space, or put a small toy or a photo in orbit, or put a data storage device in a stable orbit in order to create a time capsule, or launch microsatellites or small experiments, amongst other.

My point is, it would be great if there is a company to which you can mail your payload and be charged 3 USD(or more) per gram, easy like ordering a pizza...

Is that possible, and if not why? Is it because of logistics or because of something more?

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the use of inserting more debris into an orbit? Any debris like a a small toy or a photo will be a danger for satellites if a collison is possible. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jul 22 '18 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ There is an increasing number of debris we will have to deal with, one way or another. The use is to bring space to regular people everyday life $\endgroup$ – Viktor Chernev Jul 22 '18 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ It would be much better to bring space to regular people everyday life without inserting debris into orbit. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jul 22 '18 at 20:47

That \$3000 per kilogram (\$2000/kg for launch with a reused rocket) assumes a large payload, resulting in a launch cost in several tens to a few hundreds of millions of dollars. The price one has to pay to have a small payload piggyback on the launch of a large payload is three orders of magnitude less than that, several tens to a few hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, if one looks at things from the perspective of cost per kilogram, small payloads remain the most expensive of all. While the launch cost for a cubesat is three orders of magnitude smaller than the cost to launch a largish payload, the cost per kilogram is much higher than is the cost per kilogram of the primary payload.

  • $\begingroup$ So, a company can stack many small payloads and launch a couple hundred thousand to 1 million of those like a single large payload $\endgroup$ – Viktor Chernev Jul 22 '18 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ except the support structure to hold and dispense the tiny payloads will probably be significantly heaver than the tiny payloads themselves. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Jul 22 '18 at 9:55

Practical roadblocks to getting a payload that small into orbit:

  • IIRC nobody offers this service for random small objects. The space industry has more or less standardized on the cubesat standard, so a minimum object of 10x10x10 cm. There have been studies for even smaller satellites, but no successful missions yet.
  • objects smaller than that fall in a category that is difficult to track, but still large enough to cause catastrophic damage in a collision. This may make it difficult to get launch approval.
  • you still have to show the payload is safe to launch and deploy, which means expensive tests and certification.
  • $\begingroup$ I hope there would be no launch approval at all for small untrackable objects. Only if orbit lifetime will be much less than a week. But what is the use of inserting very expensive dust to high atmosphere? $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jul 22 '18 at 19:10

Vector R Rocket

The lowest price I have seen for a launch vehicle to place an object in Low Earth Orbit is the Vector-R by Vector Systems. This rocket has a maximum payload of 63 kilos. The cost for a launch is 1.5 million dollars, which is or roughly $24,000 per kilo. You might find a lower cost per kilo, but I am not aware of a lower cost per mission.

I should add this system has done beta launches but has not placed a payload into LEO. Although it has a planned launch in 2018.

More information:


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