SpaceX Superheavy Starship Size, Payload and Cost Details

Everyday Astronaut describes the size and payload capabilities of the SpaceX Super Heavy Starship.

The SpaceX Superheavy Starship will be taller and have more payload capacity than the Saturn V.

The fully reusable rocket could have a per flight cost of $2-5 million for its 150 ton capacity.

There is currently a payload size of 18 meters height by 9 meters wide for 1000 cubic meters of volume.
There will be a taller payload faring option with 22 meters in height. This could provide 1200 cubic meters of volume.

The current volume of the SpaceX Starship would match the International Space Station. The taller faring would provide a payload volume that is 20% more than the ISS.

The ISS took over 40 launches to get assembled and cost $150 billion.

SOURCES – Everyday Astronaut
Written By Brian Wang,

44 thoughts on “SpaceX Superheavy Starship Size, Payload and Cost Details”

  1. Why are you using 3x as many Starlinks per launch? I see F9 reusable 15 tonnes LEO –> Starship 150 tonnes LEO, and 145 m3 –> 1000 m3. I would use a factor of 7 instead of 3, so 420 per launch. Also 420 is Elon's favourite number.

  2. "can have some added thrusters and migrate to other places in the solar system." This is another advantage of Space over planet surface, the *ocean* like ability to slowly move around pretty easily. So NASA/International Gateway Halo Orbit seems like a good place to do the first rego processing, as even stuff going back down to the Moon can be better heated and separated in Space. Then, various tugs can move stuff to other destinations, such as ELEO where workers can more easily live. High tech 0 g stuff, not a lot of mass needed perhaps. Or L5, where large Space things can be built. All will have local Space Solar collectors, and there will be power beam customers eager to buy.

  3. Indeed! I would add the stuff "We just haven't tried to do it before due to" g, unavoidable on Earth mostly. 0 g is a great resource. As is selectable g. And it helps if the people doing the planning realize we *should* be living and working in Space, not on planets, such as Earth, Moon or Mars.

  4. Actually, min product is Earth to Earth power beaming, one H producing rectenna, a few fairly low redirecting sats, and small radar(s) at places with variable excess power. Next would be Moon to Moon power beaming, soon needed I hope, instead of each project needing a sep power supply. This would power mass driver, for GEO or L5 SPS construction, or power LSP construction, on the Moon, which is perhaps easier than mass driver and Space construction, for this one project, as the *sat* already exists, the Moon. Notice I am not counting launched SPS as an option, as these would just be small test efforts, as you recommend. "minimum viable product" would be solution to global heating, so LSP or L5 only options, GEO way too small for 20-200 TWe sats. And the smaller size radar of GEO sats is no advantage at relevant power, as even the LSP (and L5 similarly) radars are not large enuf for the load, requiring ~6 station pairs to handle it even at required diffraction size.

  5. Dan, you have to think about "minimum viable product".

    For SPS in geosynch, that's one satellite and one rectenna.

    For Criswell, that's an enormous system costing many, many times as much.

    If Criswell has economic advantages over geosynch SPS, it's only at enormous scale. So, maybe we first build in geosynch, then when investors are really persuaded you could find people willing to front the money for Criswell, and the existing SPS's can have some added thrusters and migrate to other places in the solar system.

  6. If you build it maybe they will come. A commercial/tourism space station could be one idea. At a low cost per kg I hope to see larger satellites with far greater capabilities.

  7. Space solar power is just one market. Think in terms of the wider market of space industry in general. Solar flux in space is 4-10 times higher vs places on Earth, entirely predictable, and available up to 100% of the time. Solar panels and solar furnaces can provide the energy to turn available raw materials into useful products. We just haven't tried to do it before due to high cost.

    Eventually you will be able to make 98-99% of space projects from local materials. That leverages your launch cost by 50-100x The asteroid Bennu, the one we just got a sample from, is 78 megatons of loose material. That alone is enough to bootstrap industry, and there are thousands more like it.

  8. Now, this is the sort of detailed thinking that is fruitful. Much along the lines of lunar command module plan. If your task is to deliver cargo to the lunar surface, SS is the way to go initially, esp if the cargo is equipment to *mine* C from lunar poles to make the fuel to do the refueling.

    "Unless you're actually doing something at that gateway that couldn't be done someplace else, you're wasting fuel." The few people needed to set up and repair the aforementioned equipment can hang out at the Gateway, building more habitat or whatever they want. Orbital modules can be towed in as needed. Remember, we are not thinking of being on the surface of a planet here! As the mining operation starts, extracting from the mined damp rego is much easier at the Gateway than on the lunar surface. Everything is useful. Build stuff in Space.

    "NASA obsessively breaks up missions in to smaller parts" This is a key to dealing with complexity, and Gateway is international effort, so pretty much no other way. IF the smaller parts are compatible and such, it is often worth the initial investment. But this is for crew, so orbital bits and pieces seems like a good thing. Starship can deliver from Moon to Gateway. Just don't focus on living on the Moon as the goal. It is to be avoided.

  9. "hence the advantage of NASA Gateway Halo Orbit,"

    But it always takes less delta V to just go direct to the surface, and skip establishing orbit first. Unless you're actually doing something at that gateway that couldn't be done someplace else, you're wasting fuel.

    NASA obsessively breaks up missions in to smaller parts, even if doing so makes little sense. I swear, when they send somebody on a donut run, he's probably ordered to set up a base camp in the Dunkin's parking lot and make sure it's working before proceeding to obtain donuts.

    I believe the SpaceX plan for going to the Moon involves refueling in an elliptical orbit around Earth, and then proceeding straight to the lunar surface. It will only stop at an intermediate orbit if NASA pays for that.

  10. Musk himself professes to be a skeptic of space solar. But he's not a skeptic of selling launch services, so someone else could do it.

    Couple years ago I read *The Case for Space Solar Power*, which has detailed cost estimates. I plugged in Starship numbers and got a total cost of 4 cents/kWh, which is pretty great considering it doesn't need storage, overproduction, or grid upgrades.

  11. At 50K per ton you're getting into the range where classic solar power satellites would become economically feasible. That's a huge market.

    Musk's next project: "StarPower".

  12. As has been said, Musk is creating his own market if he can get launch costs down low enough. Think about the Universities that would suddenly be able to afford to launch experiments for a fraction the cost. Currently the entry point is in the tens of millions to hundreds of millions in many cases even billions to get a feasible experiment up. If you can suddenly allow engineering and physics students to build and test satellites for tens of thousands, it opens up many research avenues and outlets for funding. Not to mention the commercial interests that will also follow as companies can readily access LEO for a price that's doable even for a medium sized startup. 4 million per ton versus maybe 50-100k per ton changes the risk dynamic for who can even try. It will even create downstream cost savings on insurance for payloads. The potential customer base increases exponentially. Also, with Starlink they should be one of their own best customers. Vertical integration is nice.

  13. A profit maximizing monopoly might still lower prices if demand is highly elastic, and they have sufficient capacity. I think SpaceX is mostly capacity constrained in their launch capacity, not much point for them to lower prices further until they can address that constraint.

  14. It won't be instantaneous. Building space worthy hardware is difficult and expensive. And it is made more difficult by its custom, one-shot nature.

    Space projects are planned to build just one or two copies of the hardware to launch.

    We don't have a well defined market needing space habitats or other hardware made in series, delivered reliably and on schedule.

    But if there is offer, demand will eventually catch up.

  15. Yeah, and that's the potential current situation.

    SpaceX competition aren't some poor victims desperately needing help to survive, but corporate and public heavy weights with politicians in their pockets.

  16. All monopolies are hated… at least by their competitors.

    And often the potential competitors have enough power and influence to generate some really bad publicity, even if the monopoly isn't abusing its position at all.

  17. Since Mars is Musk's own primary objective, trips to Mars might be at cost. The purpose of the margin for everything else is to raise money for Mars colonization.

  18. We often fail to realize what a game changer a quickly reusable 150 tons to LEO rocket is. The current launch market doesn't scratch the launch capability a fleet of Starships will represent (and they will be in measure to produce them in series, as airplanes). We simply don't have enough things to launch to space nowadays.

    Therefore they are serious about intercontinental travel on a rocket, even if the feasibility of that is pending to be proven. They really need something to keep those rockets launching and busy.

    This is in fact what makes me think the prices won't go down that fast. They need to have some way to recover their costs!

  19. That's what a purely profit driven capitalist would do.

    But Musk isn't motivated only by profit. Believe it or not, the guy is a believer in the urgent need of space settlement.

  20. I don't expect them to hit the $2-5 million cost point right away. By their nature, SpaceX does iterative improvements and learning as they go. Also, the traffic doesn't exist yet for high-rate Starship flights. So I expect them to start out more like $20M, and then work it down over time.

    Assume they can fit 3 times as many Starlinks on a Starship launch, so 180 per launch. To finish out the constellation would then require 55 launches, then 13 a year for replacements. Even if they move up to the 42,000 constellation, which would require enough market demand, they top out at ~45/year. That a decent rate, but not enough to keep a fleet of dozens busy.

    Lower flight rates mean all your ground overhead is split across fewer flights, therefore higher per flight. I think they will need to look for additional markets, like space tourism or asteroid mining to generate more paying traffic.

    Even at $20M cost and $40M price, NASA could afford 50 flights a year for what they are spending on the SLS. That would totally change what you can do for an exploration architecture.

  21. They can certainly squeeze the profit margin as much as they can, and still deliver a cheaper product than the rest of the market.

    But if Musk is serious about Martian cities, they will need to deliver the promised low price tag, eventually.

  22. It's only a monopoly of competence and experience.

    Others are welcome to copy their approaches.

    But yeah, I'm not sure that's enough to deter SpaceX eventual enemies from trying to split it into more manageable and subservient parts.

  23. How about the US Space Force ?
    Launching kinetic impactors in large numbers can go on almost indefinitely if the US is involved in armed conflicts at the current rate. Probably cheaper than cruise missiles and high end aircraft.

  24. As of 2019 it was $50M, though individual customers could get lower price bids. There is no point in SpaceX offering public prices that are much lower than the best prices otherwise available for comparable launch services. They’d just be undercutting themselves.

  25. It doesn't exist because there's no way to fill it. Build the capacity with the right cost, and the market will develop to utilize it.

  26. The problem for any monopoly, and SpaceX is on its way to an effective monopoly, is that if you actually extract monopoly profits, you encourage the creation of competitors. Whereas if you just split the difference between monopoly profits and your actual costs, there isn't enough motivation to oust you from your position.

    It's only monopolies that abuse their position that are hated.

  27. Exactly, I've long suspected they're lying about the rosy prices for Starship, they have no reason to offer cheap prices for F9 so why would they for Starship when it means more profit.

  28. Why would they lower it ?. Once they achieve the monopoly on orbital launches (and they are well on their way to get it), they don't need to lower prices, on the contrary, they will increase them and laugh all the way to the bank.

  29. The price is on the amount they build the more they make the cheaper they can sell them and the more often they use them the cheaper they are.

    If the space force buys one and never uses it again its 43mil. If they use it a dozen times its much cheaper.

  30. So, now the basic question needs to be asked, whether to do ISM/ISRU or launch stuff? Counter intuitively, the ISM advantage over expensive launch, which is clear for water/fuel, for example, is the same at any launch cost, even free! Getting the material is only part of the project. Doing stuff is the main part, and if launch is cheap, just go ahead and launch the factories into orbit, where we can DO stuff. This *probably* requires lunar access to set up mines, hence the advantage of NASA Gateway Halo Orbit, an L5 sort of thingy. I am a long term fan of Al Globus, so anything ELEO that tourists can afford is fine with me, but that can also be construction shack for Space Solar, etc, big stuff, heavy industry, big bucks, do it. Perhaps Musk could launch C extractors to lunar pole, and make Methane instead of tediously Earth launching for refuel. It would be cool!

  31. I don't know about NASA's Gateway, but I'd sure like to see the Gateway Foundation put together a plan and cost estimate based on Starship specs. Both for the little Von Braun station, and the much larger Gateway. And maybe a slight redesign to take advantage of Starship, instead of the little spaceplanes they're assuming.

    Heck while we're at it, let's look at Kalpana Two.

    In terms of sheer mass, that's 8500 tons, which at $33/kg would be $280 million in launch costs. SpaceX would have a good incentive not to add a lot of margin for that, since they could get the tourist transportation business afterwards.

  32. Why would they lower it? They're already the cheapest launch option and plan to launch Starship way cheaper than anybody else on the market. May as well take those extra profits for Starship or Starlink. The elasticity of the launch market is slow enough that any price changes now really wouldn't matter for years, and by that time they'll be launching Starships.

  33. For P2P, I wonder what the cost will be? Not as much fuel will be needed for suborbital hops. I imagine not too much since most cost seems to be service/refurbrishment.

    Either way, HELL of a rocket, right?

  34. Need details on how to replace SLS with uncrewed SS and crewed whatever, to build Gateway, an all around good idea, without further delay.

  35. When do you expect Falcon 9's advertised price to reach $43 million per launch? It's been over 4 years since they made that prediction.

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