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If you want a good example of what's wrong with the US space program, take a good look at the Space Launch System rocket NASA is developing. In 2011, NASA estimated the cost of developing this human-rated, heavy-lift vehicle, along with the Orion crew capsule and launch facility upgrades, at $18 billion through 2017. The latest estimate by NASA pegs the development cost for SLS/Orion at between $19 billion and $22 billion through 2021. Almost everyone in the space industry understands that this is an extremely disingenuous low-ball estimate.
If you look at the number of satellites being launched to earth orbit over the past decade, there has been consistent growth. In 2004, a total of 76 satellites were launched (or attempted). In 2013, there were 215. That is almost a tripling of the market. But these numbers are deceptive. Here's why. In 2004, only 17% of the satellites that went up had a mass of 100 kilograms or less. In 2005, it was 11%. Last year, about half of the satellites weighed 100 kg or less.
The two Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded to Boeing and SpaceX by NASA on September 16 should come as no big surprise to anyone familiar with both the agency's conservative culture and its relatively small annual budget of just under $18 billion. Boeing received $4.2 billion to continue with development of its human-rated system based on the Atlas V rocket and CST-100 capsule, while SpaceX got $2.6 billion to continue work on its Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and Dragon V2 combo.