SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a Tweet on February 12th said that even if his new Falcon Heavy rocket was “fully expendable” the cost of a complete launch would only be about $150 million.
That’s still a lot of cash, of course, but is around $200-$250 million ‘cheaper’ than its rival at United Launch Alliance (ULA, a jv of Lockheed Martin and Boeing) which gets large slices of NASA and US government orders.
He added that “a fully expendable Falcon Heavy, which far exceeds the performance of a Delta IV Heavy, is $150 million, compared to over $400 million for Delta IV Heavy [from the ULA].”
Musk said that the Falcon Heavy can be further developed to cope with larger loads and more complex missions, in particular adding thrust to the Falcon’s main core second stage which is now under consideration. “We’ve already stretched the upper stage once. Easiest part of the rocket to change. Fairing [also] flying soon, also has a slightly larger diameter. Could make fairing much longer if need be & will if [SpaceX’s projected] BFR takes longer than expected.”
SpaceX’s business model – and engineering strategy – is to build as much of the overall rocket, including boosters and fairings to be recoverable. The re-use of such components slashes the already highly competitive price of the system.