SpaceX Starship vs Saturn V

2020-12-27 2 min read

    As a kid I used to be obsessed with all things space. A big part was having the same name as the head of NASA, Daniel Goldin, where I harbored illusions that they wouldn’t even have to change the nameplate on the door. My parents supported this interest and got me subscriptions to a variety of space and science magazines. I did not go the space route but despite that I’m sure that passion and curiosity contributed to my growth and I still have a soft spot for space.

    Yesterday I came across across an article describing the SpaceX launch plans for their [Starship] rocket. This got me into a rabbit hole of reading about the Starship and how massive it really is. To date, the Saturn V was the largest rocket - by height, weight, and payload - but the Starship is going to be larger. A small part of me is disappointed that it took us 60 years to get anywhere close to the size but the rest is excited that we’re starting to make real progress here. Launching a rocket is a truly hard problem and I’m glad as a species we’re pushing this forward. I spend my days in front of a computer and have admiration for those that are actually working on rocket launches.

    One of the most incredible facts is comparing the cost of the launches. A launch of the Saturn V was around $185M in 1969 dollars (currently equivalent to $1.2B) but the expectations is that at scale the Starship will drop this to $2M. The bulk of the cost is in the rocket so just being able to reuse the rocket will drive huge savings but $2M is 0.17% of $1.2B. That’s just amazing. At that price what else will we start launching to space? It really can herald a real push to space.