How Much Does A Civilian SpaceX Flight Cost?

Asking how much a SpaceX flight costs is a loaded question. Aside from the obvious fact that a person first needs to be Elon Musk-level rich to even think about asking, many factors dictate the actual price. The three current contenders in the great private space race — SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic — launched their first "tourist flights" in 2021. Even NASA wants some of that potential revenue, as evidenced by a recent update to its pricing policy for Private Astronaut Missions. That update comes the closest to laying out what a trip to the ISS will cost, going so far as to break it down by individual resources. You can even see how much it will cost to dispose of your trash. Spoiler alert: the final cost is astronomical.

In September 2021, SpaceX launched Jared Isaacman and three others into Earth's orbit as part of the Inspiration4 mission. The CEO of Shift4 Payments has an estimated worth of $2.4 billion. The trip was the first all-civilian flight that did not have a single "professional" astronaut aboard. A space nerd at heart, Isaacman has more than 6,000 hours of piloting experience and commanded the three-day trip around the Earth. He funded the entire venture himself and, in the process, helped raise what was ultimately tallied in at $243 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Neither SpaceX nor Isaacman revealed the flight's final cost, but MIT Technology Review cites speculation of around $50 million for a seat on that mission.

Get out your wallet for a trip into space

In April 2022, the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) launched, taking its first paying visitors to the ISS aboard the SpaceX Dragon Resilience for a cost of what is believed to have been at least $55 million per person (via Quartz). Musk said that in 2016 the cost to launch a Falcon 9 rocket was $62 million, but in 2020 SpaceX director of vehicle integration Christopher Couluris said the company managed to bring the launch cost down to about $28 million by reusing the Falcon 9 rockets (via CNBC). With that said, the cost of each trip will likely be based on the customer's needs.

CNBC reported in 2020 that the Air Force gave SpaceX a contract worth approximately $95 million per launch because its missions required certain security measures based on national security. By comparison, Virgin Galactic charges $450,000 (with a $150,000 deposit) for a 90-minute sub-orbital trip, according to TechCrunch. After Isaacman's Inspiration4 flight, Musk stated that trips to space will initially be "very expensive," but over time will decrease, making space more accessible for everyone. That time likely won't be in our near future, but with humanity's passionate desire to become space cowboys, the time will eventually come.