Imagine if airplanes weren’t reusable. It costs a staggering $250-300M to buy a Boeing 747. A one way trip to fly anywhere on the planet would cost millions. Yup, it sounds bizarre.
That’s exactly the conundrum with space flight. Missions have always been incredibly expensive… but recent breakthroughs in reusability of rockets have drastically reduced the cost of spaceflight and jump started the once stalling space industry.
In fact, we actually have private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin & ULA to thank for here, who in conjunction with NASA have unleashed engineering breakthroughs that have significantly moved the needle.
NASA has calculated that commercial launch costs to the International Stations have been reduced by a factor of 4 over the last 20 years. That's not all. For commercial launches to LEO orbit, costs have dropped by a factor of 20, from $54,500/kg for NASA's space shuttles to $2,720/kg and $1,410/kg for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 (2010) and Falcon Heavy (2018).
We have finally reached a tipping point. There was no doubt that the physics behind spaceflight could be conquered, but now the economics have been conquered as well, all thanks to reusability.