Price gouging in space

Lee DeCovnick
The Obama's Administration decision to gut America's "heavy lift" space programs prior to the retirement of the aging shuttle fleet has brought a swift and not unexpected reaction from Russia.   
Russia, which is set to hold a monopoly on flights to the international space station (ISS), wants to charge more for rides on its Soyuz rocket, the space agency head said Tuesday.

At a meeting of the space agency chiefs in Tokyo...Roskomos head Anatoly Perminov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

"We have an agreement until 2012 that Russia will be responsible for this [manned transport to the ISS]. But after that? Excuse me but the prices should be absolutely different then!"

When NASA retires its long-serving shuttle fleet as planned later this year, the United States and other countries will be wholly dependent on Russia to fly the station's six-man crew to and from orbit.

NASA has signed a deal worth 306 million dollars (224 million euros) with Roskomos for six rides to the ISS in 2012 and 2013, or a charge of 51 million dollars per US astronaut.

But with space now limited aboard the Soyuz rocket, Russia looks set to curb its lucrative space tourism service, for which it had charged cosmos-crazed tycoons 35 million dollars (28 million euros) for the ultimate adventure.

The floating ISS research station was to be closed in 2015 and ditched in ocean like its predecessor the Russian Mir station, but the 16 countries involved are in talks to extend the station's life to 2020.

Soon Russia will be charging American astronauts $51 million per trip as compared to the space tourist's fee of $35 million. Transportation monopolies do have their advantages!

This price gouging will accelerate as China, Japan, Brazil and Iran (yes, that Iran) are pouring significant state resources into LEO (Low Earth Orbit) space flight, with an eye toward overcharging the United States for orbital delivery services in the near future.

More significantly, Japan is much more deeply invested in getting a space elevator operational by 2030 then Tokyo publicly lets on. Once operational, the space elevator could drop the cost of placing men and commercial payloads in LEO by 80%. This means the window for privatized heavy lift is around 25 years, at which time traditional LEO rockets may be as obsolete as dot matrix printers. This is too narrow a time frame for large multi-billion dollars corporations to recoup their investments in commercial payload delivery systems and make an acceptable profit.

So far there are almost no serious private plans for an American space elevator, and certainly this President would never allow NASA funding for such a transformative technological endeavor.
The Obama's Administration decision to gut America's "heavy lift" space programs prior to the retirement of the aging shuttle fleet has brought a swift and not unexpected reaction from Russia.   
Russia, which is set to hold a monopoly on flights to the international space station (ISS), wants to charge more for rides on its Soyuz rocket, the space agency head said Tuesday.

At a meeting of the space agency chiefs in Tokyo...Roskomos head Anatoly Perminov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

"We have an agreement until 2012 that Russia will be responsible for this [manned transport to the ISS]. But after that? Excuse me but the prices should be absolutely different then!"

When NASA retires its long-serving shuttle fleet as planned later this year, the United States and other countries will be wholly dependent on Russia to fly the station's six-man crew to and from orbit.

NASA has signed a deal worth 306 million dollars (224 million euros) with Roskomos for six rides to the ISS in 2012 and 2013, or a charge of 51 million dollars per US astronaut.

But with space now limited aboard the Soyuz rocket, Russia looks set to curb its lucrative space tourism service, for which it had charged cosmos-crazed tycoons 35 million dollars (28 million euros) for the ultimate adventure.

The floating ISS research station was to be closed in 2015 and ditched in ocean like its predecessor the Russian Mir station, but the 16 countries involved are in talks to extend the station's life to 2020.

Soon Russia will be charging American astronauts $51 million per trip as compared to the space tourist's fee of $35 million. Transportation monopolies do have their advantages!

This price gouging will accelerate as China, Japan, Brazil and Iran (yes, that Iran) are pouring significant state resources into LEO (Low Earth Orbit) space flight, with an eye toward overcharging the United States for orbital delivery services in the near future.

More significantly, Japan is much more deeply invested in getting a space elevator operational by 2030 then Tokyo publicly lets on. Once operational, the space elevator could drop the cost of placing men and commercial payloads in LEO by 80%. This means the window for privatized heavy lift is around 25 years, at which time traditional LEO rockets may be as obsolete as dot matrix printers. This is too narrow a time frame for large multi-billion dollars corporations to recoup their investments in commercial payload delivery systems and make an acceptable profit.

So far there are almost no serious private plans for an American space elevator, and certainly this President would never allow NASA funding for such a transformative technological endeavor.