There are a lot of things one could buy in the aerospace industry for $146 million. One might, for example, buy at least six RD-180 engines from Russia. These engines have more than twice the thrust of a space shuttle main engine. Or, one might go to United Launch Alliance’s Rocket Builder website and purchase two basic Atlas V rocket launches. You could buy three “flight-proven” Falcon 9 launches. One might even buy a Falcon Heavy launch, which has two-thirds the lift capacity of the Space Launch System at one-twentieth the price, and you’d still have enough money left over to buy several hundred actual Ferrari sports cars.
Or, again, you could buy a single, expendable rocket engine.
Speaking of engines, SpaceX is building the Raptor rocket engine to power its Super Heavy rocket and Starship upper stage. The Raptor has slightly more power at sea level than the RS-25 and is designed for dozens of uses. According to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, it costs less than $1 million to build a Raptor engine. The company has already built a couple dozen of them on its own dime.
It’s going to cost $2 billion per SLS launch, assuming it ever flies.