Elon Musk makes plenty of big, bold announcements. In some cases, they come true, and in other cases, they don't. Now, he's back at it with a big claim about the future of space travel.
Speaking at the U.S. Air Force Space Pitch Day this week, Musk said he believes SpaceX's reusable 100-passenger Starship will only cost $2 million per flight to operate in space. He said, according to Space.com, that the costs include $900,000 in propellant to get into the Earth's orbit and an additional $1.1 million in operational costs.
It's a big claim. If Musk can really deliver a $2 million space ride, it would be dramatically cheaper than the $152 million the average NASA space launch costs, according to data obtained by Futurism and earlier reported on by CNET. In fact, if Musk is right, his space travel could cost just a little over 1 percent of what NASA pays to go to space.
Musk has been one of the more outspoken proponents of using reusable rockets to reduce the cost of space travel. Indeed, his company SpaceX has built an entire business around the concept. And with ambitious plans for passenger space travel and, eventually, he hopes, flights to Mars, launching reusable rockets to keep costs down would be critical.
But getting down to $2 million per trip isn't the simplest of tasks. And it's worth noting that Musk didn't commit to a time period when he could pull it off.
According to Space.com, SpaceX's current space trips cost between $62 million and $90 million, depending on the rocket. That's a far sight from $2 million on a Starship spaceship. A trip at that price point still has a long ways to go to be proven.
Musk unveiled the Starship earlier this year. It's a big, attractive vehicle that he hopes will one day carry people to Mars. He said that SpaceX plans to launch the Starship into orbit early next year. By 2021, it could be ready to start transporting people.
But getting to $2 million is still the magic number. When (or, more accurately, if) that happens, it could be the most important component in SpaceX's broader success. If the company can get people into space for a couple million dollars, the sky (or perhaps, space) is the limit. If it can't, a race to getting to the cheapest space travel between companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others, could be an interesting price war to watch.
What's clear to anyone, however, is that reusability is the key to humans finding a way off the planet. Musk is committed to it. Jeff Bezos, with Blue Origin, is committed to it. Now we just need to see which of the tech titans can pull it off.
Here's hoping it happens sooner rather than later. Start saving for your tickets now.