A space race between Boeing and SpaceX. Which company offers cheaper flights to space?

Visualization of the interior of the Crew Dragon capsule. Source: SpaceX

There is much talk about the private sector driving today's era of space exploration, while lowering the cost of space missions. That's true, but a large part of this event is still financed by NASA

Five years ago, NASA launched a program in which it wanted to establish cooperation with the private sector. It was specifically about the design and construction of a spacecraft capable of performing manned space missions. The Americans were slow to send their people into space on board the Russian Soyuz.

Space Shuttle ended in 2011 and since then, Americans must use Russian infrastructure. In an interview with CNBC, the head of the American space agency, Jim Bridenstine, he revealed that for one place on board a Russian ship NASA pays about 70 million dollars. A lot. No wonder the Americans started looking for a cheaper alternative.

Returning, however, to NASA's cosmic plans: the US agency has made $ 1.5 billion from its budget. and gave this amount to three companies: SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada. The plan assumed that three private entities would design and build prototypes of spacecraft that NASA would use in the future for space manned missions. After presenting three prototypes, the US space agency chose two of the best-promising contractors, namely Boeing and SpaceX.

Boeing versus SpaceX

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVEBO6Zuppk

According to the Arstechnica service , Boeing representatives initially urged the NASA officials not to create a healthy, two-party competition, they gave all funds to Boeing. They argued that Elon Musk - the man responsible for the creation of SpaceX does not have much experience in such demanding projects, and besides, he only cares about advertising.

Well, who ever heard about reusable rockets. Boeing has already had a long history of cooperation with NASA. This plan, however, did not burn out and another installment from the state agency's space budget of 7 billion dollars. was divided into two companies. The partnership with the private sector will result from the Commercial Crew program, for which Boeing and SpaceX have prepared space capsules - Starliner and Crew Dragon - on which American astronauts will return to space flights from their own territory.

Which company offers cheaper flights to space?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKjFF9Fqt4I

Since we are talking about the private sector, it all boils down to the money and profitability of the whole undertaking. So let's take a moment to look at the projects of Boeing and SpaceX for financial reasons. How much does a space flight cost for one astronaut? William Gerstenmaier, responsible for the Commercial Crew program, revealed on his congressional hearing that assuming that if all goes according to plan, ie all 12 planned missions will take place, at a rate of two per year, the average space cost for an individual astronaut will be 58 million . dollars. That is 12 million less than the Russians currently want.

However, this is not all. Note that Gerstenmaier spoke about the average price. Which company offers cheaper flights? First, let's take a look at the amounts given to Boeing and SpaceX. Boeing received $ 4.2 billion. SpaceX 2.6 billion. This is the full amount to cover the development of three programs: tests and development of new technologies; service missions; special tests, tests and analyzes. We are interested in the second position, which roughly makes up the price of one space on the spacecraft and for which both companies received a total of USD 2.784 billion.

I remind you that NASA wants to receive 12 manned flights for this money, with 4 astronauts on board, or 48 seats from each company. If we assume that the distribution of the amount of 2.784 billion. dollars. is proportional to the division of the total sum received by both companies, the results are as follows: single place in Crew Dragon (SpaceX) costs about 44.4 million, and in Starliner (Boeing) 71.6 million.

Cheaper Crew Dragon is ready for flights

The experience of Boeing, which the company's lobbyists have so often mentioned, does not seem to have a very positive impact on the pace of work at Starliner. Competitive design of SpaceX, after completing the test flight is practically ready to start its service for NASA. The Boeing project, meanwhile, will start its tests at the earliest in August. Although this deadline can still be postponed.

I wonder how the delays and higher price set by Boeing will affect their further cooperation with NASA. The Agency does not have its own money. He receives them from the congress, that is de facto from American taxpayers. And they do not like to overpay. Public opinion will also be affected by information related to passenger Boeing disasters , which shows that their manufacturer neglected several security issues.



A space race between Boeing and SpaceX. Which company offers cheaper flights to space?

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