The Challenger disaster certainly did lead to a harsh economic impact.
An average space shuttle launch costs about $450 million. Because STS-51L (Challenger's final mission) was a failure, the money spent preparing the mission was lost.
As a result of the disaster, in 1987 the United States Congress authorized the construction of a new space shuttle to replace Challenger. Rockwell International was contracted to build the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Although Endeavour was built using structural spares and some spare parts, its construction still cost about $1.7 billion.
The primary objective of STS-51L was to deploy the TDRS-B (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) communication satellite for use by NASA. The satellite cost NASA about a quarter of a billion dollars. TDRS-B was later replaced by TDRS-G on STS-70 in 1995.
Another big impact from the Challenger disaster was the cost of the investigation into the accident, correcting problems that lead to the accident, improving Space Shuttle safety, and replacing lost equipment. In 1986, NASA estimated these as costing $240.5 million in 1986 and $245 million in 1987. However the actual costs were larger.
There are many other NASA projects and economic factors that were impacted by the Challenger disaster. For instance, NASA's part-time astronaut program and the Air Force's Vandenberg AFB launches were canceled. Calculating the total economic impact of the Challenger disaster is probably impossible.
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