What’s the Price of Low Cost?


Many programs presented at prior USU meetings have been exceptionally successful at reducing the cost of space missions. Typically this is done by a variety of mechanisms that change fundamental characteristics of how business is done in space. (The missions flown do not literally reproduce their more expensive predecessors, or they would have not have been able to significantly reduce cost.) Thus, a critical question arises—What is the price of low cost? What do we give up in order to achieve the advantage of dramatically lower cost?

This paper examines the 10 case study space missions presented in the new book, Reducing Space Mission Cost. Relative to the projections of traditional cost models (our best estimate of “should have cost”), these missions reduced total program cost by 50% to more than 90%.

Cost reductions have come about in all mission segments—the spacecraft bus, payload, launch, ground segment, and mission operations. This paper summarizes the cost reduction methods employed by these missions to provide a first answer to the title question.

Download “What’s the Price of Low Cost?”

Wertz, James R., Larson, W. “What’s the Price of Low Cost?” 10th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites. September, 1996. Logan, Utah.