Low-cost launch of payloads to low Earth orbit

Rodney L. Burton, Kevin Brown, Anthony Jacobi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The various measures applied for reducing launch cost, by introducing ultralightweight and reliable structures and payloads in space explorations, are discussed. For the viability of a sustained human presence in space, launch cost is a critical factor. It is expected that the development of off planet infrastructure will be driven by launch dollars per kilogram. The genesis of cost model is the observation that the operating cost of high power system is not dictated by delivered energy but by peak system power. It is feasible to develop a heavy lift mach 0.8 platform at low cost, largely based on modifications to existing aircraft. It is also noted that with savings of as much as $4000/kg, a $5 billion development could be paid for in 12 launches at 100t each. The results show that the most significant cost for Earth-launch boosters is a peak thrust power and that the launch cost and peak power may be linearly related.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)696-698
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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