Space – how costly can government make it?

March 18, 2022   |   Tags: ,

People may get tired of libertarians preaching about government. we point out that government is not only corrupt, by its very nature tyrannical, a rebellion against God (and nature’s laws), and bad for most people. We also explain how government is also inefficient, inept, and insanely costly. Even we lovers of liberty sometimes get frustrated with telling people the same old, same old.

But every time we stop to take a breath in our tirade, something new surfaces. Or at least becomes more obvious. The wicked nature of government jumps off the front pages constantly.

So let us look at one example of that: the expansion of the human race outside our planet’s atmosphere.

I probably do not need to expound to our readers WHY going into space is important. Or why it is neat! Let us assume that it is a GOOD thing to venture out into the Solar System and go to Luna, Mars, and elsewhere. So… how do we get there?

Consider NASA. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The government agency in charge of space travel for our union of Fifty States. Large, wealthy, and all that.

The same outfit that got the SECOND artificial satellite into earth orbit. That got the SECOND human into space, and into earth orbit. (And, I admit, the only twelve men in history on the surface of Luna – which given NASA’s track record, qualifies as a near-miracle.) The same agency that sent up 135 space shuttle missions at a cost of $1.5 billion EACH. Including 2 missions (admittedly, less than 2%) in which the shuttle was destroyed and in which 14 people died. Quite a track record for the best of the best, no?

NASA is, of course, the organization responsible for ensuring that between July 2011 and May 2020 – nearly a DECADE – Americans had to fly into space on-board RUSSIAN spacecraft. (I admit that Congress and a whole bunch of Executive Branch leaders and bureaucrats can share the blame.)

Look, a government agency that almost continuously came in 2nd to a Communist country’s government space program MUST have some serious shortcomings. Right?

Of course, NASA did continue to launch all sorts of stuff into orbit, and does so today. It has also micromanaged the various commercial endeavors (notably Blue Origin and SpaceX) launching from US territory. (I think that this explains why more and more businesses are using French and Russian and even Japanese and Indian launch systems.)

Now, at the same time that the space shuttle was in operation (that 135 missions), launching a payload of 27,500 kilograms for $1.5 billion, or $54,500 per kilogram, between 1970 and 2000,  the cost to launch a kilogram to space remained fairly steady, with an average of US$18,500 per kilogram. The cost of the glorious space shuttle missions was offset by the “cheap” hauls of all those Delta, Atlas and Titan and other booster launches. While those were government (USAF and NASA) launches, they were a bargain compared to the STS, crewed missions.

And we ignore that fact that the AVERAGE cost for 2.2 pounds of cargo put into low earth orbit was more than the average annual income of an American, at least in 1970. That the income taxes taken from dozens of average Americans was necessary to lift two loaves of bread into space. Incredible, right?

Now consider the situation in 2022. NOW we finally have several years of private business contracting both with government AND private business to get stuff into orbit.

Private business: For a SpaceX Falcon 9, the rocket used to access the ISS, the cost is just $2,720 per kilogram. Falcon 9 routine launches (more than 130 so far) cost between $60 and $100 million for more than 7,000 kilograms to low earth orbit.

A Falcon Heavy rocket – the more powerful version of the Falcon 9 and with the third-largest cargo capacity of ANY rocket – first launched in February 2018 – the famous Tesla Roadster mission. This rocket can lift 63,800 kilograms, equivalent to more than 27 Asian elephants, to low Earth orbit and 16,800 kilograms to Mars for just $90 million. And even 3.5 tons to PLUTO! And that is with inflation! The next Heavy launch is scheduled for May 2022.

Blue Origin’s “New Glenn” rocket is expected to begin carrying loads to orbit this year. I’m not sure of the cost, but it appears to be comparable to SpaceX.

The future is bright for private business – even if their single biggest customer is the FedGov.

Speaking of which:

Government: The vaunted NASA Space Launch System will carry cargo to low Earth orbit for a mere $58,000 per kilogram – every flight will cost a cool $4.1 BILLION dollars! That is the price according to a FedGov auditor, to boot! And this is after more years development than either SpaceX or Blue Origins.

Just think about that – SpaceX (and probably competitors Blue Origin and others) CAN SEND 21 TIMES AS MUCH CARGO INTO LOW EARTH ORBIT than NASA can.

But there is more – just heard that the next US astronaut to return from the International Space Station will have to ride on a Russian spacecraft. How thrilling! The US and RF are virtually at war, and NASA can’t even find someone else to contract with? So much for sanctioning Russia.

Oh, the cost of government! Not just in money, but in time and opportunity.

As I said, one more example of what a total fouled-up mess government is.