Wednesday, November 29, 2023
HomeIndustry Reports, Papers and e-BooksHow much would Falcon 9 have cost if it was developed by...

How much would Falcon 9 have cost if it was developed by NASA?

In 2011 made a predicted cost estimate of the vehicle using the NASA-Air Force Cost Model (NAFCOM). NAFCOM is the primary cost estimating tool NASA uses to predict the costs for , crewed vehicles, planetary landers, rovers, and other flight hardware elements prior to the development of these systems.

NAFCOM is a parametric cost estimating tool with a database of over 130 NASA and Air Force space flight hardware projects. NAFCOM uses a number of technical inputs in the estimating process. These include mass of components, methods, engineering management, test approach, integration complexity, and pre-development studies.

Another variable considered by NAFCOM is the relationship between the and the contractor during development. At one end, NAFCOM can model an approach that incorporates a heavy involvement on the part of the Government, which is a more traditional approach for unique development efforts with advanced . At the other end, more commercial-like practices can be assumed for the cost estimate where the contractor has more responsibility during the development effort.

For the Falcon 9 analysis, NASA used NAFCOM to predict the development cost for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle using two methodologies:

  • Cost to develop Falcon 9 using traditional NASA approach, and
  • Cost using a more commercial development approach.

Under methodology #1, the cost model predicted that the Falcon 9 would cost $4 billion based on a traditional approach. Under methodology #2 NAFCOM predicted $1.7 billion when the inputs were adjusted to a more commercial development approach. Thus, the predicted the cost to develop the Falcon 9 if done by NASA would have been between $1.7 billion and $4.0 billion in fiscal year 2010 current dollars ($2.1 billion and $5 billion fiscal year 2021).

has publicly indicated that the development cost for Falcon 9 launch vehicle was approximately $300 million. Additionally, approximately $90 million was spent developing the Falcon 1 launch vehicle which did contribute to some extent to the Falcon 9. for a total of $390 million. NASA verified these costs but did not perform a detailed analysis to explain the significant differences between the cost estimates and SpaceX actual costs. However, SpaceX attributed their cost efficiencies to three primary factors: lean workforce, vertically integrated organization, and minimal infrastructure.

Source: NASA

Additional information for the curious



Subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Sent every Monday morning. Quickly scan summaries of all articles published in the previous week.

Most Popular