NASA is working with SpaceX and Boeing to produce vehicles to transport passengers and cargo to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner vehicles are in the testing phase, and NASA wants to use both of these vehicles next year.
So far everything is normal, but the cost difference between the two tools seems to push NASA to use SpaceX’s tool more often. Let’s take a closer look at the difference in cost per seat between the two vehicles.
NASA, which has been turning to different alternatives to reduce costs in space research for a long time, has signed an agreement with SpaceX and Boeing, two of the space and aerospace companies, to get rid of the costs of research, development, production and testing of the spacecraft that will go to the International Space Station. After the agreement, the companies that started to produce Crew Dragon and Starliner for NASA have come a long way despite the problems of testing the vehicles.
NASA, aiming to use these two vehicles to transport cargo and people to the International Space Station in 2020, will of course take into account the fee it will pay per seat to the two companies. The US General Inspectorate (OIG), which makes these calculations and presents a report to the space agency; SpaceX and Boeing’e revealed the amount payable per seat.
Traveling with Boeing’s Starliner will be 60% more expensive than Crew Dragon:
NASA, which has even put up commercial activities for space exploration, will pay 60% more per seat on trips with the Starliner, according to the OIG report. To explain this rate in figures, 90 million dollars will be paid for every passenger traveling to Boeing’s International Space Station while 55 million dollars will be paid for each passenger traveling the same journey with Crew Dragon. The difference is very high, so NASA can choose Crew Dragon for the majority of the journeys.
Although both companies produce vehicles for a common purpose, the technological infrastructure and production costs used in the vehicles may vary. It is worth mentioning that Elon Musk’s company has made an important effort for Boeing.
How much was NASA paying per seat on the Russian-made vehicles he used before?
NASA, which has been using Russia’s spacecraft for a long time on the International Space Station, paid about 86 million dollars per passenger. According to the OIG report, although BoXing seems to have made significant savings from this perspective, it is not the case for Boeing. NASA, which wants to reduce the dependence on Russia, can give priority to Boeing’s vehicle because it is a US product, even though it is costly while reaching its target with SpaceX.
In September 2014, NASA agreed that Boeing and SpaceX would receive a certain amount of payment during the program development process. According to the report, Boeing has received $ 4.82 billion from NASA to date, while SpaceX has received $ 3.14 billion. Let us remind that these amounts are also effective in the account per seat.
Elon Musk reacted on Twitter after the OIG report:
“It’s not fair for Boeing to get more money for the same thing,” Elon Musk said in a statement on his personal Twitter account, drew attention to the inequality. NASA will of course set a flight schedule with these costs in mind, but as Musk points out, Boeing will earn more on each flight than SpaceX.
After the data released in the OIG report, a statement came from Boeing. Boeing disagreed with OIG’s cost estimate and did not take into account OIG’s cargo capacity, “Starliner is carrying as much as the fifth passenger equivalent in cargo. Cost per seat should be made on 5 seats,” he said. Let’s add that 7 astronauts can be transported in both vehicles, except cargo.
Stating that they had to develop the vehicle from scratch and started the project later, Boeing argues that it is normal to have higher costs. As Boeing argues in calculating the costs per seat of SpaceX and Boeing, time will tell what kind of a table will come up if a cargo change is made. Meanwhile, vehicles that have not yet been crewed to the International Space Station are expected to be tested soon.