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The Cost of Building and Launching a Satellite

Satellites are not cheap business. They cost a lot of money to design, construct, launch and monitor. Just how much money? If you have at least $290 million in your bank account, that money can go into making a satellite that can track and monitor hurricanes. Add about $100 million dollars more if you want a satellite that carries a missile-warning device.

What makes satellites so expensive?
Some of the factors that drive the cost of satellites are the equipment and materials used to build them. Transponders alone hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain, while bandwidth cost per MHz is priced at a minimum of about $3,500 a month. Running a satellite at a 36MHz bandwidth will cost over $1.5 million a year. There are also the other gadgets and equipment that have to be built into the satellite in order for it to perform its intended function. These can include computers, computer software and cameras.

Another factor that contributes to the expense associated with satellites is the cost of putting one into orbit. It is estimated that a single satellite launch can range in cost from a low of about $50 million to a high of about $400 million. Launching a space shuttle mission can easily cost $500 million dollars, although one mission is capable of carrying multiple satellites and send them into orbit.

Also to be considered in the cost of satellites is its maintenance. After getting one into orbit, it has to be monitored from a ground facility, which will require manpower. Satellites are also not impervious to damage or down times. Furthermore, if things don’t go too well during a launch, a multi-million endeavor can either end up in pieces or sustain damages that will cost more money to repair.

Some of the top satellite firms in the U.S. are Hughes, Boeing, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. and Lockheed Martin.

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