Well, the announcement was for something big. Since pretty much the dawning of the space age, the magic number for opening the skies has been < $1,000 per pound to orbit. If we could get the price down under that, a lot of things suddenly come within reach.
For a reference point, the Space Shuttle costs $10,000 to $20,000 per pound depending on what costs are folded into the equation… the best numbers in the range that Space X is throwing out there is $80 million for a launch and 117,000 pounds into orbit. That works out to $683.76 per pound to Low Earth Orbit. Even taking the highest numbers for the Falcon Heavy and the lowest numbers for the Space Shuttle it is still about one tenth the costs.
Sure the Saturn V could lift twice what the Falcon Heavy will lift- but with an inflation adjusted cost of about $1.1 billion it was 13 times more expensive.
For the cost of just a single Saturn V or Space Shuttle launch, just the launch mind you, a private mission could launch three Falcon Heavies and use the $700 million difference to place a Sundancer into a lava tube and have a permanently habitable moon base.
I haven’t done the napkin math but I would think that five to eight of them could launch everything needed for the asteroid retrieval mission I am fictionalizing for Space Inc., the graphic novel/TV series I am working on. Since it is a not-so-secret goal of mine to use the fictional world to jumpstart serious consideration in the real world, this is very good news.
While it isn’t the co-operative venture between Space X and Bigelow Aerospace that I was hoping for, and it is about a year further away than I was predicting, this is a milestone that the space industry has been waiting a half a century for.
Good job Space X.