REALSPACE: So how expensive is it to put stuff in space?

Republibot 3.0
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How much does it cost to put stuff in space?

Allowing for inflation, comparing late 1960s dollars to modern dollars, a Saturn V cost about a half billion dollars to build and fly, and a shuttle costs about a billion just to fly. (Construction costs are about 4 billion, but obviously you can amortize them over time, which you couldn't with a Saturn.)

The Saturn V could put about a hundred tons of cargo in one pop, the Shuttle can carry about 55,000 pounds. The Saturn weighed - fully fueled - a bit over six million pounds. The Shuttle weighs - fully fueled - about 4,500,000 pounds. (That's including the whole shuttle stack - the orbiter, the SRBs, the ET)

That means that putting cargo in orbit using the Saturn cost about five thousand dollars per kilo, or roughly $10,000 per pound. Using the Shuttle, it costs about $18,200/lb. Nearly twice as much.

To put this in practical terms, a gallon of water would cost $80,000 if delivered to orbit by a Saturn V, and about $146,000 via shuttle.

If we assume, like the airlines used to, that a person weighs 200 lbs on average, then it costs about $2 million to put a person up via Saturn, and $3.6 million via Shuttle. A little bit more for women because, you know, big heavy purses n'makeup n'stuff. You could easily add a few thousand bucks in expence if you don't go to the bathroom before liftoff. Ok, obviously I'm joking about the purses, but this is just the people. Their equipment - space suits, extra clothes, laptops (Yes, they take laptops - the Shuttle computers are more than a decade old), and food all add to that weight considerably.

Where this *Really* pays off is in the flexibility having Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLLV) allows. There have, to date, been TWENTY THREE expeditions to the ISS, building the thing piecemeal because the shuttle really can't carry stuff too terribly big, and the largest components had to be launched on Russian Proton rockets for the same reason. By rough estimate, that's about 23 billion dollars just to put the cargo up there, plus the expence of the cargo itself, plus the hundreds of man hours in hooking up dozens of different components in space, and the danger inherent upon that.

The ISS masses (or "Weighs") about 345 metric tons. That same ammount of equipment, using cutting edge 1967 technology, could have been put in orbit with just FOUR Saturn V launches, costing a total of 2 billion dollars.

I realize all things are not created equal here, there's a little bit of apples-and-oranges. For instance, you'd still need some construction to hook the segments of a theoretical Saturn-launched station into orbit, but that would probably be easier to do given the components would require less assembly in orbit. But on the whole, as a rough comparison, it serves to illustrate the costs involved.

Just to get discussion going.

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