1. News & Issues
Send to a Friend via Email

What a Space Shuttle Launch Costs

By

What a Space Shuttle Launch Costs
Shuttle launch

The shuttle launch of Atlantis is pictured here at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 8, 2011.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

Each space shuttle launch cost American taxpayers between several hundred million dollars and more than a billion dollars, depending on who you believe. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration pegged the average shuttle launch cost at $450 million.

See also: NASA Names Shuttle Display Sites

But science policy researchers estimated the each shuttle launch cost at being far more expensive - as much as three times more. Roger Pielke Jr. and Radford Byerly, of the University of Colorado in Boulder, reported that the U.S. government and NASA spent nearly $200 billion total on the space shuttle program.

NASA's program began in 1981 with the launch of space shuttle Columbia and concluded with the launch of Atlantis in July 2011. Over those 20 years, there have been 134 missions. That brings the average shuttle launch cost to about $1.5 billion, according to Pielke and Byerly, writing in the international weekly journal of science Nature.

The researchers said each shuttle launch cost about $1.2 billion from the time Columbia launched and 2010. But when factoring in the lifetime costs of the shuttle program dating back to the early 1970s the average shuttle launch cost rose to about $1.5 billion per flight.

The shuttles cost in the billions of dollars. Endeavour, the orbiter built to replace Challenger, cost about $1.7 billion, according to NASA.

For a little perspective, here's what The Associated Press said: "America spent more on the space shuttle than the combined cost of soaring to the moon, creating the atom bomb, and digging the Panama Canal."

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.