[FPSPACE] Launch vehicle costs, overruns

DwayneDay zirconic1 at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 11 13:42:49 EDT 2004

Okay, I pulled the CBO report "A Budgetary Analysis of NASA's New Vision for Space Exploration" off my desk and turned to page 11.  Table 2-2 is titled "Cost Growth in R&D Programs for Selected Types of Defense Systems."  There's a whole buncha categories there and cost growth for each category.  Here's some interesting ones:

Fixed-Wing Aircraft------42%
Ground Vehicles---------71%
Missile Defense----------69%
Rotary-Wing Aircraft----45%
Space Systems----------69%

(I find the ground vehicles category to be simply bizarre.  Normally I would expect the greatest cost growth on things that are the hardest to define before you do them.  The US Army has been developing and fielding ground vehicles since General Washington bought his first horse and should have a good handle on it now.  Why the heck do they have such a bad record estimating their cost?)

Anyway, the two most relevant categories to civilian space are missile defense and space systems, both of which have a 69% average historical cost growth.

Simply put, this means that if the USAF says that a satellite program will cost $1 billion, the chances are that it will actually cost $1.69 billion.

So, what this shows is that NASA is actually _better_ than DoD at estimating the costs of its space programs, although I suspect that there is enough volatility in the numbers that we would not want to take this claim too far.


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