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Total cost for "Return to Space" mission?


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Guest Hyperspace


While the Shuttle has been a reasonably successful launch vehicle, it has been unable to meet its goal of radically reducing flight launch costs, as the average launch expenditures during its operations up to 2005 accumulates to $1.3 billion [1], a rather large figure compared to the initial projections of $10 to $20 million. The total cost of the program has been $145 billion as of early 2005 ($112 billion of which was incurred while the program was operational) and is estimated at $174 billion when the Shuttle retires in 2010. NASA's budget for 2005 allocates 30% or $5 billion to Space Shuttle operations. [2]

The original mission of the Shuttle was to operate at a high flight rate, at low cost, and with high reliability. It was intended to improve greatly on the previous generation of single-use manned and unmanned vehicles. Although it did operate as the world's first reusable crew-carrying spacecraft, it did not improve on those parameters in any meaningful way, and is considered by some to have failed in its original purpose.

Although the design is radically different from the original concept, the project was still supposed to meet the upgraded USAF goals, and to be much cheaper to fly in general. One reason behind this apparent failure appears to be inflation. During the 1970s the US suffered from severe inflation, driving up costs about 200% by 1980. In contrast, the rate between 1990 and 2000 was only 34% in total. This magnified the development costs of the Shuttle. The original process by which contractors bid for Shuttle work has also inflated overall project costs as there were political and industrial pressures to spread Shuttle work around. For instance, the need for a single piece SRB design was dismissed as only one company was located close enough to the launch site to make this viable. The company that secured the SRB contract, Morton Thiokol, is based in Utah, necessitating the modular design that contributed to the Challenger loss. Ironically, the US aerospace mergers of the 1990s mean that the vast majority of the STS contracts are now held by a single company (Boeing).

However, this does not explain the high costs of the continued operations of the Shuttle. Even accounting for inflation, the launch costs on the original estimates should be about $100 million today. The remaining $400 million arises from the operational details of maintaining and servicing the Shuttle fleet, which have turned out to be tremendously more expensive than anticipated. Some of this can be attributed to operating beyond the 10 year anticipated lifespan of each Shuttle.


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I am from Canada, and I realize that we don't add too much to the space program, but I support NASA and am totally for space exploration.  I don't think that the results it yields can be related to the money invested.  If the American tax dollars need to be put in more important places at any time, then the space program should be put on pause for that duration, but not abandoned.  It is a novelty, yes, and entirely experimental, but is something that is going to advance humanity, and I believe that we will get far more out of it than we put in, exponentially.  I wish that all nations could put forth efforts to amalgamate on one international goal to discover space, but I do believe that day is not far off from today.  I think that it is the one thing that can unite this planet.

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Hey all:

My two cents!!

Space flight will never be easy or cheap.  Our astronuants understand the risks of what  they do and the reward to all of mankind.  Today,  even with our aging fleet of shuttles we are the preiminant space technology country for the near term.  I for one DON'T want to give that away to anyone else.  Someday,  perhaps even in OUR lifetimes our ability to manage space may be the difference between life and death for millions of peaple.

Honestly, thousands of "explorers" died just figuring out that the world isn't flat.  After that thousands more "settlers" died getting to all those new lands.  That "spirit"  should never die,  nor should it get lost in the near term costs of discovery.  The world / universe as we know it is expanding,  we should WANT to lead that effort.

Spend on NASA,  you bet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Let us not forget the private sector and it's contribution's they are in competition with nasa and it will help keep down the cost, but how ever nasa has developed a majority of the technology that put the private sector where it is at today, now this statement may sound like double talk but the point I was trying to make is that nasa needs competition to help keep down the cost and two heads are better than one even if one is a goat's head ;):idea::D

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a waste of money.. they have not discovered anything that helps humanity'  but i do love what they do but for what?

We got the space pen out of it.. Where as the russians used the pencil..

"The company says it took Fisher about 2 years and $2 million to develop the space pen"

That was kinda cheap.. and it advanced humanity.  We now have a pen that can write anywhere..

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  • 15 years later...

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