Ion engines are touted as a great source of propulsion for high deltaV missions that can afford an ample power supply and need low thrust maneuvers; and they are great. But I'd like to know how much they cost.
I can't seem to find any pricing details or indication on how much it costs to fill a spacecraft with Xenon, or even the pricing Xenon itself. A vague reference that doesn't seem right turns up \$120 for 100g of the rare noble gas. Alibaba is filled with prices for high purity quantities ranging from $15-300 per litre (and at STP, 5.98g/L makes that quite pricey!).
I ask because, today, NASA's Michele Gates gave a presentation that shows how they want to evolve SEP for Mars Exploration, and one proposal utilizes 16 metric tonnes of Xenon:
Chart from Michele Gates’ presentation shows how NASA plans to evolve solar elec prop technology from ARM to Mars:
- Jeff Foust on Twitter.
Which based on my calculations from Alibaba, would be between \$40m and \$815m; which seems just, wrong.
Dawn famously used 425kg of Xenon for its Asteroid belt exploration mission (Source), do we know how much it cost to fill her up? Other possible missions to check are Deep Space 1 and GOCE. But I cannot even find out how much Xenon they had on-board.
Fundamentally, I'd like to know how much it costs to fill a craft with Xenon, with evidence to support it.