SPACE SHUTTLE MISSION COSTS
The answer depends heavily on assumptions, some of which are:
- What costs are being spread over missions?
- What's the shuttle flight rate?
- Are figures adjusted for inflation (constant dollars) or not?
- Is the expense of periodically building replacement orbiters (such
as Endeavour) included?
People arguing over shuttle costs on the net are usually arguing from
different assumptions and do not describe their assumptions clearly,
making it impossible to reach agreement. To demonstrate the difficulty,
here are a range of flight cost figures differing by a factor of 35 and
some of the assumptions behind them (all use 1992 constant dollars).
$45 million - marginal cost of adding or removing one flight from
the manifest in a given year.
$414 million - NASA's average cost/flight, assuming planned flight
rates are met and using current fiscal year data only.
$1 billion - operational costs since 1983 spread over the actual
number of flights.
$900 million - $1.35 billion - total (including development) costs
since the inception of the shuttle program, assuming 4 or 8
flights/year and operations ending in 2005 or 2010.
$1.6 billion - total costs through 1992 spread over the actual
number of flights through 1992.
For more detailed information, see the Aviation Week Forum article by
Roger A. Pielke, Jr.: "Space Shuttle Value Open To Interpretation", July
26, 1993, pg. 57.