The Cost of Orbital Rockets

Why is it so expensive to launch rockets? The average rocket launch may cost nearly a quarter of a billion dollars! Rocket manufacturers are not always willing to release costs to the public, so the following table is comprised of estimates with varying degrees of trustworthiness and accuracy just for the purpose of discussion. Generally speaking, private industry such as SpaceX is attempting to provide launch services at 25% to 33% of what nation states can provide (based on a data point of one), and nations competing against the United States are attempting to provide services at 75% of American cost…assuming we can trust their figures.

Vehicle Orig. Manuf. Payload mass to… (kg) Cost per kilogram of payload (2014) Total cost ( 2014)
 Ariane 5ES EUR EADS Astrium 21,000 8,000 $10.5k $21.9k  $220M
 Atlas V 401 USA ULA  9,050 4,950 $13.8k $25.3k  $125M
 Delta IV M+ 4,2 USA ULA  11,750 5,740 $13.1k $26.8k  $154M
 Delta Heavy USA ULA  28,790  14,220 $13.0k $26.4k  $375M
 Falcon 9 v1.1 USA SpaceX  16,625  5,760  $4.1k $10.4k  $56M
 Falcon Heavy USA SpaceX  53,000  21,200 $2.5k $6.3k  $132.5M
 Long March 3 CN CALT  5,000  —  $13.0k  $65M
 Long March 5 CN CALT  25,000  14,000  ~$6k  ~$10.7k  ~$150M?
 Proton M RUS Khrunichev  21,600 6,150  $4.3k $27.1k $92.9M
 Saturn V USA Boeing, N. American, Douglas 118,000  —

47,000 (TLI)

 $10.3k  —  $1.2B
 SLS Block 2 USA Alliant, Boeing 130,000 *  $3.9M  $500M*
 STS USA Alliant, Martin Marietta, Rockwell 24,400 3,810  —  $450M *
 Titan IV USA Lockheed Martin 21,682 5,761 (9,000 with upper stage) $13.8k $5.2k ($33k with upper stage)  $300M


  1. FAA Semi-Annual Launch Report: Second Half of 2009. Federal Aviation Administration.
  2. China ‘s big thrust rocket technology has been significantly beyond Japan _ Netease News Center“[专题]中国大推力火箭技术已被日本大幅超越_网易新闻中心”.
  3. Wikileaks Report on Rocket Launches.

Abolishing the Electoral College Would Destroy States Rights

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote–primarily based on the consistently blue states of New York and California–and has led to constant whining about abolishing the Electoral College. Having attended public school in various states and countries, I find it odd that the most vocal denouncers of the Electoral College are the ones who grew up and were educated in blue states. I have a theory that Americans who grew up in blue states were raised to think that pure democracy would be better for America than the constitutional republic that we actually have. New Yorkers and Californians in the public eye are whining that the Electoral College strips the voters of their choice, but I would argue that abolishing the Electoral College would only favor a handful of states in the federal republic of fifty states–primarily New York, California, and Massachusetts.

Having states conduct their own elections is a strength, not a weakness. Nationalizing this country into essentially one state with a capital on the east coast is a very bad idea. The Electoral College is just one instrument that allows each of the fifty states to preserve its own interests, its own ideals, and its own independence. I would argue that the Electoral College is the most obvious protection of state’s rights as granted by the 10th Amendment.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

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The Millennial Generation’s Problem With Patriotism

Some reports on the Millennial Generation have concluded that the current youth of America is the least patriotic of the generations. Others would argue that the Millennials certainly have plenty of passion to tap into; however, it seems that much of that passion as it pertains to patriotism is merely unfocused and ill-shaped.

There is something inherently different and alarming about [the millennial generation], but it has become evident that [they] have a tremendous amount of energy and passion. [Our] hope is that we can convert… gaudy display of patriotism into a genuine desire to serve and create positive change in the United States. The voice of veterans and service members is essential to the millennial generation’s task of reinventing its sense of patriotism.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Wrong About the Electoral College

Not a single election or issue in the United States is determined by a national plebiscite–and with good reason. The state-based, undemocratic structure of the Electoral College was meant to curb the maladies of an unconstrained mob much like most of our other institutions.

However, the Electoral College has become functionally more democratic over the years. The states universally conduct a popular vote to choose their electors rather than having the state legislature choose, as was done in earlier American history.

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How to shoot down a stealth fighter

“The entire concept of “Stealth Fighter” is mostly a fraud. Stealth bombers and tactical attack planes have a reasonable use case. Stealth fighters are ridiculous. The F-35 is a gold plated turd which should be flushed down the toilet.”

Locklin on science

Editorial note: I actually wrote most of this five years ago, but was reluctant to publish it for misguided patriotic reasons. Since people are starting to talk about it, I figure I might as well bring some more sense to the discussion.

I’ve already gone on record as being against the F-35. Now it’s time to wax nerdy as to why this is a dumb idea. I’m not against military spending. I’m against spending money on things which are dumb. Stealth fighters are dumb. Stealth bombers: still pretty dumb, but significantly less dumb.


I have already mentioned the fact that the thing is designed for too many roles. Aircraft should be designed for one main role, and, well, it’s fine to use them for something else if they work well for that. The recipe for success is the one which has historically produced good airplanes: the P38 Lightning, the…

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The largest computer ever built

The world’s largest networked computer system was the Semi Automatic Ground Environment–an air defense system operated from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Locklin on science

While cold war jets are an old interest of mine, almost everything built to fight the cold war fascinates me. All ages are characterized by madness; only a few have that madness captured in physical objects. Consider the largest computer ever built: the “Semi-Automatic Ground Environment” or SAGE system.

The SAGE system was designed to solve a data fusion problem. Radar installations across North America kept watch against Soviet bombers. These needed to be networked together and coordinated with air defense missiles and interceptors. Seems simple, right? In the 1950s and 1960s, this was not simple. The country is big; hundreds of radar stations and sensors needed to be integrated. It wasn’t as easy as it was in England in WW-2, when enemy aircraft location was plotted by hand on maps as the radar data came in: North America is much larger, and the planes traveled much faster in the…

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