A Falcon 9 costs 61.2M dollars.

A Falcon Heavy (1 Falcon 9 + 2 boosters) costs 85M dollars.

That means 1 booster of the Falcon Heavy costs only 11.9M dollars.

So, why does a Falcon 9 (9 Merlin 1D + 1 Merlin Vacuum 1D + 1 fairing) cost 50M dollars more than a single Falcon Heavy booster (9 Merlin 1D) ?


  • $\begingroup$ By now it should be obvious what they are basing that pricing on--they expect to get back all the boosters. Thus they're charging about 11.9M to fly a booster, plus almost 50M to fly the upper stage that won't be recovered. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Jan 6 '18 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ The pricing on those pages, especially Falcon Heavy, is completely aspirational. $\endgroup$ – ReactingToAngularVues Jan 6 '18 at 23:44

@Russell has the right idea. Pricing is about economics, what the market will bear. What it costs to produce and launch is only one factor in that equation. Let's look at it economically: dollars per kilogram to orbit. Here are the numbers for payload to GTO. First in 2014.

  • Falcon 9: 4,850 kg to GTO for \$61.2M or \$12500/kg
  • Falcon Heavy: "Up to 6,400 kg" to GTO fro \$85M or \$13281/kg

And here they are in 2018.

  • Falcon 9: "Up to" 5,500 kg to GTO for \$62M or \$11270/kg
  • Falcon Heavy: "Up to" 8,000 kg to GTO for \$90M or \$11250/kg

Note the cost per kilogram is about the same and have converged.

Also note the 2014 pricing on the Falcon Heavy is $85M for "up to 6.4mT" but it is capable of putting 21mT into GTO. How much would that cost? They don't say.

The key comes when you look into the potential reusability of the Falcon which SpaceX is gambling will drive the cost of launching stuff to LEO down to the magic \$2,200/kg (\$1000/lb).

SpaceX has indicated that the Falcon Heavy payload performance to Geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) will be reduced by addition of the reusable technology, but would fly at much lower launch price. With full reusability on all three booster cores, GTO payload will be 7,000 kg (15,000 lb).

7,000 kg is awful close to the marketed "up to 6,400kg" price. They don't have that reusable part working yet, but they're using every Falcon 9 launch to test it.

The other part is volume. SpaceX plans to build a lot of these rockets and build them cheaper each time. By using the same basic technology for all their rockets, they further increase their economies of scale. And since launches have a fixed cost, more payload per launch might mean cheaper launches... though fuel fraction remains a tyrant.

SpaceX has claimed the cost of reaching low Earth orbit can be as low as US$1,000/lb if an annual rate of four launches can be sustained, and as of 2011 planned to eventually launch 10 Falcon Heavy and 10 Falcon 9 annually.

So there you have it. The Falcon Heavy's posted price is for significantly less than its maximum capability and banking on yet to be proven technology and a steady stream of contracts to drive down the cost of launching stuff into orbit. It's the vehicle SpaceX is banking on to drive launch costs down to encourage the sustained space economy they need to get to Mars. Wait, Mars?

Running a successful business is nice and all, but SpaceX is one very, very rich man's dream to colonize Mars. The Falcon Heavy is not the vehicle to do that, that will require a whole new engine, but it is the vehicle to get to Mars cheaper than anyone else.

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    $\begingroup$ SpaceX used to provide a price for 'heavy' FH launches that utilized all 21mt of its GTO capacity or 53mt of its LEO capacity, and it was around $125m. $\endgroup$ – ReactingToAngularVues Nov 12 '14 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Antilogical Do you have a reference, perhaps from the Wayback Machine? $\endgroup$ – Schwern Nov 13 '14 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Schwern Here you go. The price for greater than 6.4 mT to GTO was 135 million. However, note the cheaper price for FH and F9 flights at the time. It's likely any potential customer seeking additional payload would probably be paying around $150m or more currently. Additionally, there is substantial evidence (vehicle performance analysis) that suggests the stated 53mT to LEO/21mT to GTO spec cannot be achieved. $\endgroup$ – ReactingToAngularVues Nov 13 '14 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ That's the key part of the answer (that SpaceX only lists the price of Falcon Heavy flown with at least two cores reusable, vs the expendable cost of Falcon 9), rather than just the declining costs of manufacturing due to mass production (which would also lower the costs to manufacture F9). But in the end, of course, it will be "whatever the market will bear". SpaceX have been slowly but steadily raising prices on Falcon 9 launches. $\endgroup$ – Kirkaiya Nov 14 '14 at 6:13

Look at the pricing on sodas at a movie theater sometime.

You're looking at the retail price of a launch on that page -- what SpaceX charges customers -- not the cost of the hardware involved in the launch.

The price is whatever SpaceX says it is. If they set it too low, they can't afford to continue R&D on their future plans; if they set it too high, customers will find another provider.

The cost of the hardware is only part of SpaceX's costs. The management and logistics portions of designing, producing, and delivering the hardware and overseeing the launch -- which are enormous -- don't vary much with the size of the rocket involved.

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First off, we shall see if that price for the Falcon Heavy survives contact with the enemy.

How did you get to 11.9 Million dollars for one booster? I cannot find the reference now, but assume generic launch costs are about 10% of total cost. Range, permits, fuel etc. So say $55 million for the raw booster.

Then assume the first stage is 70% of booster cost. That is about 38.5M. Times 3 would be 115.5.

Economies of scale? I suspect they expect when they are launching 10 F-9 and 10 F-H a year, and making 40 cores a year, and thus 380 Merlin engines a year they expect things to get cheaper.

Or else they plan for reusing stages in that pricing.

The proof will be in pudding, when they actually start delivering Heavy launches and what they really charge for future flights after the pricing settles down.

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  • $\begingroup$ 1 Falcon9 + 2 Boosters = 1 Falcon Heavy --- So : 1 Booster = (1 Falcon Heavy - 1 Falcon9) / 2 --- 1 Booster = (85 - 61.2) / 2 = 11.9 --- What do you means when you say "assume generic launch costs are about 10% of total cost" ? $\endgroup$ – iännis Nov 12 '14 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ iannis - your costing is not correct. It isn't just a case of pricing each module/booster etc. geoffc has listed some of the real criteria for cost. $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Nov 12 '14 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ The hardware won't cost \$55M. They have to recover \$1B in investment with these flights. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jan 7 '18 at 8:13

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