December 18, 2012

Thirty Lunar Lander Seats: Golden Spike’s Magic Number to the Moon

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

Golden Spike made it clear it needs to sell lots of commercial astronaut seats to the Moon at a list price of $750 million per person to get its lunar landing “railroad” going. But how many does it need to sell to cover its costs? Will other revenue be able to contribute to the bottom line?

To get to launch of the first mission, Golden Spike CEO Alan Stern says the company will probably spend between $7 billion to $8 billion in research and development, with a good chunk of money going to building a lunar lander and EVA suits, the only pieces of technology that aren’t “off the shelf” for the company’s system to transport two astronauts to the Moon’s surface. Let’s split the difference and it will be $7.5 billion in startup expenses.

Once the system is set up and all hardware developed, the per-mission price is $1.5 billion. Assuming there’s about $500 million in disposable hardware per mission between two rocket launches, a lunar lander, customized EVA suits and other incidentals such as staffing a mission control center, that leaves around $250 million per mission to pay back R&D before you get into “profit.” You’d have to sell 30 seats/15 surface missions by my math to break even, assuming a 33 percent profit per mission.

Read more: Thirty Lunar Lander Seats: Golden Spike's Magic Number to the Moon — SATELLITE SPOTLIGHT.

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