Launch Services Cost Study

For some Russian Launch Vehicles

What is the Real Cost of the Soyuz Booster and Soyuz Spacecraft, Progress, Molniya, Ikar-Soyuz,& Fregat-Soyuz Launch?  

8-16-2005 - 7-26-2010 - 4-21-11

By © Charles P. Vick 2010 All Rights Reserved

Senior technical & policy Analyst

With NASA now having the legal permission through a Congressional amendment to the Iran Non-proliferation Act of 2000 prohibitions relief to purchase Russian Soyuz spacecraft, booster, launch and training services it is time to review what the available data indication on the real pricing for a Soyuz spacecraft and Soyuz launch vehicle, launch services and support services. In the face of NASA’s present short fall in budget needs for future developments and the probable grounding of the shuttle until the fall of 2006 for both assured access to ISS for US astronauts and the safety issues involved for ISS crews NASA must get this legislation yesterday. It is hoped that NASA can get a fair price from the Russians but the trends leave that in question because NASA is not in the business of providing funding for other Russian, Federal Space Agency future programs through innovative financing from foreign sources. This is especially so when it is not necessarily an international cooperative program of the foreseeable future.

It is interesting that the Federal Space Agency (FSA) of the Russian government wants $20 million per tourist commercial launch while the French Russian Consortium Starsem has charged $42 million for the basic three stage Soyuz commercial booster mission and $52 million for the four stage escape mission commercial version. Subsequently prices were quoted as being $35-40 million for the Ikar-Soyuz four stage booster and $40-45 million for the Fregat-Soyuz four stage booster for multiple launches (AW&ST, Nov. 29, 1999 pp. 34-35). In the past I have heard figures of about $45 - $50 million for a Soyuz launch that was suggested perhaps paralleling the Starsem pricing practices.

As far back as before the mid to late 1980’s and in 1991 from Glovkosmos it was known the Soyuz booster commercial cost was on the order of from $10-$12 million but by April 1993 based on one JPRS report, (JPRS-USP-93-003 pages 36-39) By Michail Sergeyev, Sergey Morgachev, “Russian In the Commercial Launch Market”,: COCOM Restrictions Hinder Russian Firms”, Kommersant Daily, April 7, 1993, P. 9, it had risen to $15-16 million for a launch. It went on to suggest that the prices for a Vostok $10-15 million, Kosmos $6-8 million, Tsyklon $6-8 million, Zenit was $25-30 million, Energia $80-100 million, Start-1 $4-6 million, Rockot $7-11 million. Then the cost for Soyuz went to $20 Million request from the RASA now the Federal Space Agency. In a similar manner we watched Proton cost go from $28-$35 million from Glovkosmos (ILS-AIAA , International Reference Guide To Space Launch Systems 1999, p.284 ) to $35-42 million from Glovkosmos, to $42-50 million from (Glovkosmos), $65-85 million dollars a launch from (ILS) and higher $90-$98 million for Proton-K (ILS-AIAA , International Reference Guide To Space Launch Systems 1999, p.284 ) and $100-112 million for Proton-M (ILS-AIAA , International Reference Guide To Space Launch Systems 1999, p.284 ) today. This was further reconfirmed through testimony in the early 1990’s by then RASA administrator Koptev before the Russian space congressional committees.

Further Data on the Soyuz Pricing Evolution


AW&ST-Nov. 29, 1999, $35-40 Million, Starsem/Progress, Commercial,

AIAA , International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems 1999, Progress, Starsem, $30 - $50 million

Soyuz-ST, Fregat FG

AW&ST-Nov. 29, 1999, pp. 34-35, $40 - 45 Million, Starsem/Progress, Lavotchkin OKB, Commercial,

AIAA , International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems 1999, Progress, Starsem, $30 - $50 million, p. 356

Soyuz-U/Soyuz-U2, Soyuz-TM

AIAA , International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems 1999, Progress, Starsem, $30 - $50 million, p. 356 also first contract for Soyuz, $69 million/2 = $34.5 million, p. 358.

Space News, July 1999, Starsem, $20 million from ANSER article Nov. 4, 1999 $ 35 million/launch


AIAA , International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems 1999, Progress, FAA, $30 - $40 million, p. 357.

Looking at the individual space tourist civil commercial flights almost certainly they paid well less than the RASA/FSA suggested $20 million as an individual with in a three person crew. That theoretically could be as low as $6.7 million ($6.683 million) per individual though I think it was somewhat higher. These Tourist flights have to pay for some fraction of the Soyuz booster and Soyuz spacecraft, support and training services cost which is presumably in the 20%-33% range or more.

If the RASA/FSA mean $20 million for the individual then the total flight cost of $60 million is conceivable but that seems to be way out of line with the Starsem cost. If the 1993 prices are real then probably the cost were in the $1.8 - $2 million for the Spacecraft and training while the booster cost about $12.5 million to $13.36 million or so. That would suggest that the cost today is in the $17.2 million range for the launch and $2.8 million for the spacecraft ($2.0 – $2.5 million) and training. In all cases I think these prices are high and that the real cost of the whole package is less than and equal to about $16.2 - 17.5 million total with the rest of the $20 million being pure profit.

However more recent information from the Anatoly Perminov, Administrator of the Federal Space Agency of Russia states that the Soyuz booster and the Soyuz spacecraft each cost separately 400 Million Rubles at a rate of conversion of $1.00 Dollar equals R27.94 Rubles. That is the Soyuz launch vehicle and the Soyuz and or Progress spacecraft each cost $14,316,392.27 dollars at today’s rate or 800 million Rubles which equals a total of $28,632,784.54 dollars. ((ROSKOSMOS OFFERS SOYUZ CRAFT TO U.S. , MOSCOW , April 6, 2005 (RIA Novosti))

Then on August 19, 2005 RIA Novosti reported that the Federal Space Agency Alexev Krasnov head of the agencies manned space program restated its previous years stated offer to NASA of $65 million for the Soyuz spacecraft and the Soyuz booster along with the launch services. (SpaceDaily 8-19-05 ) This price exceeded the Starsem known prices as well as repeated the already ignored previously years stated $65 million price tag. This pricing is clearly out of line with the market prices and way out of line with the $28,632,784.54 price tag noted above from the same Federal Space Agency of Russia. With NASA’s present short fall in budget needs for future developments it is highly unlikely that this will be given serious consideration with out a considerable cut down if NASA understands what is going on.

But if the $20,000,000.00 FSA cost is real for the tourist flights then they are paying perhaps 30.15% or $8,632,784.54 dollars but if the 800 million ruble total one mission price holds true then the percentage are 33.333% that is $9,544,261.51 dollars per tourist flying as a part of a full crew of three persons.

That is the RASA $20,000,000.00 suggested price essentially means that the customers is getting one launch for the cost of perhaps approaching one and some fraction of a second launch. The Starsem prices suggest that the customer is indeed purchasing one launch for the cost of two or more launches. This is not to say that this is true but appearances can be deceiving in analyzing this.

It is understood that industry practice is to require the customer to pay for the launcher replacement to maintain the inventory materials/component stocks in addition to the Russian government not charging itself.

What is the difference between the Russian government prices verses the civil sector commercial pricing? There is the strategic space and rocket forces that must be paid for services rendered even though many of the personnel, services involved are now Federal Space Agency facilities employees retired from the military among other things. So what is the real cost per Soyuz launch?

Could the launches be purchased on a volume basis based on the life of the planned ISS program?

Would it be possible to deal with S. P. Korolev Energia Corporation to purchase Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and avoid paying the Russian Government direct but instead would only be paid taxes from those profits from such a business deal? That is how can a US aerospace company purchase the spacecraft and in such a way as to avoid paying the Russian government direct. That is funds provided to a US aerospace company as an example from our government to go and purchase Soyuz and Progress spacecraft from the S. P. Korolev Company cutting the Russian government out except for profit taxes is what I am trying to get at. Is that at all possible?

In fact this is impractical because even though the deal would go through S. P. Korolev Energia Company most of its suppliers and sub contractors are wholly State owned unitary enterprises. Further the Progress launch vehicle company is almost totally owned by the Government and the launch services are government run so there is no practical true free enterprise development here in the Western sense. Russia continues to maintain centralization which is not encouraging. Trying to separate S. P. Korolev Corporation from the Government and the Federal Space Agency would only aggravate the issues already aggravated. The only thing that is possible is to get transparency and require that the contract be supervised by and administered jointly by a Western partnered aerospace company.

Retired CEO, Designer General, Yuri Semenov has always said come talk to him after all over 61.78% or so of S. P., Korolev Energia is stock holder held ownership in Energia that is not government owner 38.22% so how can we encourage privatization of these companies to separate them from the government but through such a deal. Unfortunately Semenov was retired from office at age 70 by a hostile takeover run by the Russian governments, Federal Space Agency. Many in the West and Russia want a management change at S. P. Korolev Corporation. Subsequently Semenov retired and Nikolay Sevastyanov became the CEO at a S. P. Korolev Corporation now effectively run by the Russian Government reducing the stock holders and the development of free enterprise to irrelevance. Unfortunately Nikolay Sevastyanov was also removed from the job by the government when he attempted to dictate to the FSA administrator.

It needs to be emphasized that S P. Korolev Corporation is an innocent victim of the present US law, Iran Non-proliferation Act of 2000 prohibitions because they have had nothing to do with the Iranians. Unfortunately this free enterprise was not helped by the US to encourage its development destroying a golden opportunity to make up for what was not done by previous administrations in dealing with the Russians.

Recent discussions by the S. P. Korolev Corporation of a 2008-2010 human circumlunar mission utilizing one Proton-K and one Soyuz booster with a Soyuz/Zond-TMA spacecraft and the human lunar landing program that would utilize nine launches in total over three months in groups of three with some eight Protons and one Soyuz booster with a Soyuz/Zond-TMA spacecraft, for the years 2010-2012-2014 are equally revealing cost wise for being based on Western funded inventive marketing? Of Course the Russian government does not charge itself retail so this is curious as to what the real cost and profit will be and especially where it is to go? It is assumed that it will go to several new programs already attracting European and Japanese space agencies interest to assure their manned spaceflight access so as not to be dependent on US space transportation systems alone other than this advertised Space Adventures/FSA, and its associated R&D requirements. What the outcome of this deal is going to be is unclear but presumably it could have been better if this US administration had gotten its act together much earlier than it has. To say the least all the foregoing remains quite an interesting mystery not openly known.

 Soyuz Cost 2010

The present 2009/2010 Soyuz cost of $51 million per astronaut launched is expected to go up after 2012. It has already risen above the “space tourist” cost of $35 million per passenger. The price is definitely rising as Russia recognizes the true cost and worth of the services it provides that are now in high demand for the strained industry capability to respond. Soyuz is known to take as much as two years to be completed in the manufacturing processes utilized by S. P. Korolev, Rocket Space Corporation Energiya, Korolev, Moscow region. Expectations of single astronaut cost rising to a whapping $60-65 million now seems entirely conceivable. To give some perspective on this it used to cost $65 million to purchase a Proton flight to place a COMSAT payload in GSO. The cost saving that initially drove the Soyuz purchase for ISS is rapidly dwindling bring into question where these funds should be placed by both Russia and the U. S. At the present time the individual astronaut cost stands at $56 million which includes launch and training services.

Soyuz Cost 2014-2016

At the present time 4-2011 the individual astronaut cost stands at $56 million which includes launch and training services. On March 15, 2011 the United States, NASA signed a contract with the Russian Federation Federal space Agency for transport and training services to the ISS between 2014 and 2016. At a total of $753 million or an individual astronaut cost for training and transport of $62,750 million. It includes 12 astronauts for Soyuz transport with six flying in 2014 and six in 2015 followed by the last astronaut returning in 2016.

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