Phew! We knew that private enterprises were getting into space transportation and that outgoing rockets were becoming way more common but this? United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno has just launched a brand new website that will let satellite makers customize their own flights and calculate the cost of sending their payloads out into space using one of ULA’s rockets.
The website is called Rocket Builder and it does exactly what its name proclaims it does. Go to the website and you can build your very own rocket making allowances for the year and quarter of launch, the orbit you want to place your satellite in, payload build and what kind of service you want to go with the rocket. Once you chose all the options, you are then shown a price tag that takes all the relevant costs into account.
The process is almost identical to what you would go through when you were say, purchasing a car and customizing it using the dealer’s website. Except that the scale is much, much higher here. Instead of a few tens of thousand or a few hundred thousand dollars, you will be spending in hundreds of millions. The base price for launching a ULA rocket for example, stands at somewhere around $109 million.
So yeah, the website is not really going to have a lot of footfalls. However, the ones that it does get will more than make up for the lack.
You can also add and calculate price for stuff like how many additional boosters you’re going to need for the required thrust, whether you want to include an on-board video system to the rocket, conduct expanded mission rehearsals and so on. ULA also has an option wherein you can invite up to 100 customers or investors to watch the launch as a marketing tool — at an extra cost of course.
There is also an additional option that lets you calculate the “ULA added value”. This is something that appears to be aimed at ULA’s commercial competitor, including SpaceX. SpaceX offers significantly cheaper rides to the space as compared to the United Launch Alliance. This is in-part due to SpaceX’s reusable rockets. ULA is currently working on the Vulcan rocket that will be available on Rocket Builder late next year.
However, ULA ‘s track record is better with 113 successful launches and zero failures to its credit.
The company has given that track record a material shape, telling you how much money you are likely to save if you launch with ULA instead of with anyone else.
An estimated launch slip of just three months can cost a customer upwards of $12 million in lost revenue and $18 million of deferred revenue. ULA’s average launch date slip has been less [than] two weeks for the past five years.
To me, that sounds like the company is attempting to justify the $40 million or so that it costs above SpaceX’s base launch price. Meanwhile, the website is limited to commercial launches. The company has other schemes for the government, whose launches are cheaper at somewhere between $30-$80 million.
Well, I just calculated the price of my very own, Internet beaming satellite using Rocket Builder. I now know exactly how much money I need for perpetual, Superfast Internet. Unfortunately though, the website does not appear to have the option of monthly payments.