2nd private company gets space cargo ship operating

Orbital Sciences Corp. had a successful test of their privately designed, funded and built spaceship. Their lifting vehicle made it to orbit and the cargo pod successfully separated. See Private company succeeds in test launch of rocket that will carry cargo ship.

They are one of two companies that will be providing lift capability to NASA:

SpaceX was awarded a $1.6 billion contract by NASA in 2006 to make a dozen missions to restock the space station. Orbital got into the mix in 2008 when it was awarded a $1.9 billion contract for eight deliveries.

Their next flight will test docking with the International Space Station:

This summer, Orbital plans to launch a rocket carrying its Cygnus cargo ship to see whether it can safely dock with the space station. During the scheduled demonstration flight, the cargo ship would carry about 1,600 pounds of supplies that include food, clothing and spare parts.

Unlike SpaceX, for the return trip the Orbital Sciences ships will be filled with garbage and intentionally incinerated upon return to earth.

So here is my first cut at the math:

  • $1.9B – 8 deliveries
  • $237M per delivery
  • 1,600 pounds – assumed actual loads are same as test run, which is probably not a good assumption
  • $148,000 per pound to lift cargo, assuming none of cost assigned to garage duties, also not a good assumption but I’ll go with it

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