Somehow we have to solve these problems and reduce the cost of human spaceflight by a factor of 100. That’s why I started SpaceX. By no means did I think victory was certain. On the contrary, I thought the chances of success were tiny, but that the goal was important enough to try anyway.
We’re making progress. If we succeed in recovery and reflight of our Falcon 9 rocket, which carries 11 tons of payload into orbit, it will be the first fully reusable orbital rocket and one of the most significant developments since the dawn of rocketry. At $35 million to manufacture, it’s already four times cheaper than comparable single-use vehicles from Boeing or Lockheed. However, since Falcon 9 costs only $200,000 to refuel (and reoxidize), an efficient refurbishment and launch operation would allow the production costs to be amortized over many flights. This has the potential to bring the per-launch price down to about $1 million, a hundredfold improvement over current costs. And if that happens, life will become sustainably multiplanetary in less than a century.
Update: There’s another interest piece about Elon Musk at the Mercury News.