It costs over $130,000 to deliver this $23,000 Nikon kit to the ISS
The International Space Station holds a whole lot of camera gear. Especially Nikon camera gear, as a recent tweet from astronaut Alexander Gerst illustrates while cutting the hair of fellow astronaut Sergey Prokopyev. Behind them are two walls filled with various camera equipment. But have you ever wondered how much it costs to actually send it up there?
When the tweet was posted to Reddit, user ultrahello mentioned that it costs around $10,000 per pound to deliver items to the International Space Station. This means that the kit in the photo above, a Nikon D5 and 800mm f/5.6E lens with 1.4x teleconverter, weighing a little over 13lbs will have cost at least $130K to send up.
The $10,000/lb figure comes from a report by Business Insider a couple of years ago. Essentially, a $500 million cost per launch divided by the 50,000lbs of stuff that it can carry. NASA has also published this figure on their website, too. And that’s a low end figure, too. The cost today may be as high as $43,000 per pound depending on who actually flew it up.
NASA has contracted both SpaceX and their competitor Orbital Sciences since ending their own shuttle missions in 2011. One of the goals of projects like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences is to get this figure lower, which is one of the reasons why the Falcon Heavy was such a big deal. And why blasting a Tesla into space really wasn’t that big of an expense.
That means that the 10 Nikon D5 bodies sent up last November would’ve also cost at least $300,000 to deliver with each camera, battery and 2x XQD combo weighing in at just over 3lbs. And that number is potentially as high as $1.3 million to deliver those cameras if Orbital Sciences delivered it.
One of the few times during this mission when I was nervous, and Sergey afraid. / Einige der wenigen Momente während dieser Mission, in dem ich nervös war, und Sergey Angst hatte. @roscosmos #Horizons pic.twitter.com/9QSJE5tEzt
— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) November 10, 2018
In the recent tweet above, you can see just a small chunk of the kit on the walls behind Alexander and Sergey. The kit itself is already quite pricey, but the delivery costs are just astronomical (no pun intended).
Side note: In case you were wondering, this is how they cut hair on the ISS.
I’ll never complain about Royal Mail’s shipping costs again. Although I will still moan about their delivery times.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.