Small Satellite Cost Model

The Small Satellite Cost Model is the result of over 30 years of Aerospace study. Traditional models are based on larger space systems and tend to drastically over-predict the development costs of smaller (up to 1000 kg) satellites making this one of the most relevant and credible small spacecraft cost models available.

The Small Satellite Cost Model (SSCM) is a parametric cost model that is the end result of more than 30 years of study at The Aerospace Corporation. Its development was motivated by the observation that traditional cost models—based on larger civil and military space systems—tended to drastically overestimate the development costs of modern, smaller satellites (post-1990 and up to 1000 kilograms). SSCM remains one of the most relevant and credible cost models today for performing cost estimates of small spacecraft.

SSCM employs a parametric methodology for estimation of program cost. It is best suited to the early, conceptual development phase of a spacecraft program when cost and performance trades can be easily performed. A collection of cost-estimating relationships is included that estimate the costs of developing and producing a spacecraft system with the following subsystems:

  • Attitude determination and control subsystem (ADCS)
  • Propulsion
  • Power
  • Telemetry, tracking, and command
  • Command and data handling (C&DH)
  • Structure
  • Thermal

The latest version, SSCM19 (released December 2019), estimates the development and production costs of a small satellite bus for Earth-orbiting or near-planetary spacecraft. The model is based on an underlying database of actual, as-flown technical and cost data provided by spacecraft bus manufacturers.

SSCM19 has numerous features, including the inclusion of cost-risk and funding profile analysis. The model is available free of charge to eligible requestors (see How to Obtain the SSCM Software).

In general, a new version of the SSCM is developed whenever a significant number of new missions are added to the SSCM database. Currently, the model is planned to be released approximately once every two or three years. This ensures that the model properly reflects the latest trends in cost-efficiency and technology development, with the most up-to-date database of spacecraft buses.


  • Runs in Microsoft Excel on either PC or Mac; no additional hardware or software capability is required 
  • Subsystem-level cost estimation and reporting
  • Non-recurring and recurring subsystem estimate splits
  • Suitable for detailed spacecraft bus and subsystem estimate
  • Earth-orbiting and planetary spacecraft estimating capability
  • Cost-risk analysis
  • Funding profile analysis
  • User-defined inflation factors
  • Notification when cost inputs are out of range
  • Straightforward interface with spreadsheet-based design tools
  • Easy-to-use graphical user interface
  • Save and load multiple data files or cases

SSCM19 is available to organizations in the U.S. and abroad, that meet specific criteria, subject to review by the Aerospace Export Control Office.


The SSCM 2019 User’s Manual is subject to a restricted release policy, and is supplied, along with the model, directly to the licensee or user. There is no electronic download available.


Development of the Small Satellite Cost Model 2019 (SSCM19) (pdf)


For any questions regarding SSCM, please contact the SSCM team