F9H in reusable configuration (payload seems to be about 40 tones to LEO) costs $90 million. Fully expendable (64 tons to orbit), it’s $150 million. That sounds like a lot. It’s certainly more than I can afford. But compare it to the competition. The Delta IV Heavy (29 tons to orbit) costs between $400 and $600 million… but you have to tack on the current annual $1 billion “launch capability contract” which ends in 2019. Given that the Delta IV Medium ends in 2020, all of the fixed Delta IV costs will be on the Heavy, meaning it’ll likely cost substantially more than $600 million each. And then there’s the SLS (70 to 130 tons), which since 2011 has cost about $2.6 billion per year to develop and is rather optimistically assumed to cost $500 million per launch. There’s been a recent 3-year delay, adding $7.8 billion to the development before it has even flown. Which means that that three-year delay costs as much as 52 flights of the expendable Falcon 9 heavy, or 87 flights of the reusable version.
Then there are the foreign launchers such as the Proton-M (24 tons to LEO) at $65 million, Ariane V (16 tons to LEO) at ~$200 million, and Long March 5 (24 tons to LEO) for Who Knows How Much.
Reusable F9H: $2.2 million/ton
Expendable F9H: $2.3 million/ton
Delta IVH: $20.7 million/ton
SLS: $6.7 million/ton, not counting development costs
Proton-M: $2.7 million/ton
Ariane V: $12.5 million/ton
The only heavy lifter that can compete with the expendable Falcon 9 Heavy is the Proton-M, which has an unfortunate 10% failure rate, and of course is not something the DoD is going to want to launch their payloads on, and not something that westerners would want to launch manned payloads on. Delta IV Heavy just looks *awful,* and SLS looks bad even when you don’t count the incredible sums that have been spent just developing it (something like $20 billion so far, and it hasn’t launched a gnat).
And then there’s BFR. The numbers claimed for that strain credulity… $7 million dollars to launch 150 tons to orbit… 47 grand per ton in the reusable configuration. I would not be the least bit surprised if reality drives that number way up. But even if the price goes up by a factor of a hundred, it’ll still be pretty much the cheapest ride in town.