As directed in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, NASA has produced a report assessing the market for commercial crew and cargo. And according to Aviation Week & Space Technology’s Frank Morring in his article titled U.S. Commercial Crew Costs Could Exceed Soyuz
- “Private space companies probably can expect at least 44 paying passengers for trips to orbit in the next 10 years, NASA has told Congress, but the price per seat could be higher than the U.S. government already is paying for rides on Russia’s Soyuz capsule.”
It should come as no surprise that costs for launching commercial crews might not turn out as the commercial crew launch market might promise. There have been strong hints that cost projections of commercial crew launch were seeing upward pressure in an Aerospace Corporation study, one that commercial crew launch industry representatives took pains to dismiss. Key players in the launch business including most of the Apollo astronauts and Tom Young have expressed skepticism of the the very low prices quoted by commercial crew launch companies. Former NASA CFO Malcomb Peterson offered in testimony in Marc 2010 the most blunt assessment of the potential for commercial crewed launchers.
One thing that does bear mentioning is that while the cost of the commercial crew launchers may be greater on a per seat basis than the Russian Soyuz, the space craft launched will also represent a generational advantage in technology and safety. Whether one looks at Orion, Dragon or any of the other new crewed spacecraft coming online in the next 2-3 years, all are substantial improvements over the 60’s era Soyuz.