BACKGROUND OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY
Low launch costs will continue to dramatically change the economics of many space business models, enabling a new era of capabilities once thought prohibitively expensive.
One reason for this recent explosion in space-related activity is the plunging cost of launch to low Earth orbit (LEO). Launching to LEO in the past has been among the most expensive element of any space endeavor. Historically, costs have averaged more than $10,000 per kilogram of launched mass. Recently, however, space companies including SpaceX, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) have been successfully pursuing reusable launch vehicle technology that promises to significantly reduce the launch cost to LEO. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy now boasts the lowest cost in the industry, with a base price of $1,655 per kilogram to LEO. SpaceX’s long-term ambitions, as well as that of many others, are to lower this cost to $100 per kiogram or less. Such low launch costs will continue to dramatically change the economics of many space business models, enabling a new era of capabilities once thought prohibitively expensive.
Other technologies, such as manufacturing materials in space from resources found on the Moon, Mars, or asteroids, could further improve the economics of space activities by dramatically reducing the amount, and hence cost, of material launched from Earth. A prime example is sourcing rocket propellant in space from water-rich regions of the Moon or asteroids, which could lower transportation costs to locations beyond LEO.