I don't know if this was already asked, but I'm very curious about the cost breakdown of a Falcon 9 launch.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ It is all rather speculative, and a bit arbitrary since there are all kinds of fixed costs. But Elon Musk has tweeted a few things I recall that give some measure. - Fuel costs are only a couple of hundred thousand USD. - The first stage costs about 18 million (IIRC) - They charge something like 70 million for a no-frills launch. However, I will leave a proper answer for one of the dozens of people on the NSF site who have done best-effort spreadsheets. $\endgroup$ – Mike Wise Mar 2 '15 at 22:21

As Mike Wise elucidated in his comment, this is rather speculative, since SpaceX as a private company can (and do) choose to keep their cost structures and breakdowns secret, and the prices vary between launches. We can, however, use a few bits of information to get a coarse overview of the prices involved.

Customer-facing costs

SpaceX currently sells an "off the shelf" Falcon 9 launch for \$61.2 million USD (from 2016). This price has in the past been relatively negotiable. Both MDA Corporation and SES (owners and operators of the CASSIOPE and SES-8 satellites which flew on the first and second Falcon 9v1.1 launches, respectively) paid well under the market value for their flights (CASSIOPE, SES-8).

This launch price is up on previous SpaceX rates for Falcon 9:

  • \$35 million USD in 2005, 8700kg to LEO
  • \$36.75 million USD in 2009, with an increasing cost as mission demands increased.
  • \$44 million USD in early 2010 before the first launch.
  • \$49.9 million USD in late 2010 after the second launch
  • \$54 million USD in 2011
  • \$56.5 million USD in 2013-2014 for Falcon 9v1.1

Prices has since stabilized a bit, NASA for example is paying \$87 million USD for the launch of TESS aboard a Falcon 9 in 2017. This roughly agrees with Musk's comments that U.S. government launches will cost approximately $90 million USD.

SpaceX Internal costs


Musk has famously stated at the National Press Club that the cost of propellant is only 0.3% the cost of the rocket, which yields about \$200,000 for a $60m launch.

First stage

We also know that the first stage is approximately "less than three-quarters" of the cost of the entire rocket. Now, what we can't be sure of is SpaceX's profit and margins on each launch, if the entirety of the rocket's manufacturing costs only \$40 million, then the first stage is approximately or just less than $30 million.

An employee I spoke to once concerning the SES-8 launch was that due to delays and the number of penalties that needed to be paid to SES, they barely broke even on that particular launch.

I'll try and improve this comment throughout the day as I find more information.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting tidbit to consider: Musk said that if Falcon 9 achieved reusability, they could probably get an order of magnitude decrease in price. Perhaps it's exaggerated and would require other advancements… But if such a launch would cost $6M, it means that the (non-reusable) second stage has to cost less than this number… $\endgroup$ – radex Jun 7 '15 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @radex, that assumes full reusability of both stages $\endgroup$ – ReactingToAngularVues Jun 7 '15 at 23:05
  • $\begingroup$ @EchoLogic ah, my bad. Full reusability would be pretty difficult to achieve... (FWIW, even with partial reusability, prices would go down, the quantity produced would go up, and the second stage would get somewhat cheaper through economies of scale...) $\endgroup$ – radex Jun 8 '15 at 7:35

Something I just read on space.com:

"The Falcon 9 rocket costs about \$16 million to build ... but the cost of the propellant, which is mostly oxygen and a gas, is only about $200,000," Musk said. "So that means that the potential cost reduction in the long term is probably in excess of a factor of a hundred."


The quote is attributed to Elon Musk, but there must be a mistake, I find it highly doubtful it only costs $16 million...

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's likely he said "sixty", not "sixteen" $\endgroup$ – radex Jan 23 '16 at 9:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree. If you look in the comments section of the space.com article you can find some discussion of the potential typo there. I've followed the links on that page and one leads to another space.com page space.com/… with the same likely error and criticism in comments. There is also a reference in the comments from the first Space.com page to this where the publishes have actually issued a correction for $60m over $16m :theverge.com/2015/12/21/10640306/… $\endgroup$ – Puffin Jan 23 '16 at 10:48

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.