by Rod D. Martin
July 19, 2020

While we’re thinking deeply about seemingly random things, here’s something you really need to understand from Matt Pickering, in answer to a Quora question, “Will SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 or Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner influence the design of any future Russian or Chinese spacecraft and rocket?”

Note that this is a point I’ve been making for a very long time, here, at Stratfor, and in countless other fora, well before it had become a reality.

Matt’s answer:

“Already has. I am certain there are a lot of Russians at Roscosmos drinking heavily right now as they watch their meal ticket disappear. Because with the launch of Crew Dragon on a man-rated Falcon 9, it just did. They were charging more for a seat on a Soyuz than what that launch vehicle cost. And the top and bottom thirds are fully reusable. Only the second stage is thrown away.

“Without state support Russia would be grounded. Same for China. But neither will ever be competitive on the commercial market at this point. China might be if they spend the next decade trying to catch up but even American and European government-supported space launch programs are playing catch-up too. Arianespace has basically given up and ULA [United Launch Alliance, a consortium of Boeing and Lockheed Martin] realizes they are now way behind because SpaceX went and built what they said was impossible, too expensive or dangerous and laughed as SpaceX kept on trying.

“Until they succeeded.

“Sticking the landings on a drone barge in the middle of the Atlantic ought to have been a wakeup call that business-as-usual in space lift was over. When [the Falcon] Heavy flew, SLS engineers ought to have gotten their resumes updated. While Dragon was flying, Orion and CST-100 are mockups or being built on engineering shop floors. When Crew Dragon flew Saturday, they still were. By the time SLS and one of those capsules fly, if they fly, Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 will have notched up several manned missions.

“Reuse and brutal simplification in the pursuit of reliability is the name of the game. A game the Chinese and Russians aren’t even in the building for much less sitting at the table. No one is going to buy launch services from Russia anymore when Falcon 9 or Heavy can deliver more payload at half the price. Why would a space tourist deal with Russia when within a few years they’ll get a better, more comfortable ride on a Crew Dragon for half what the Russians would charge just for the deposit?

“If there are two things America has been good at since the end of World War 2 it has been computers and spaceflight and applying innovation when cut loose to do it to both. SpaceX was simply the first to have sufficient means to be able to negotiate “cut loose” and get beyond paper rockets and uncompleted prototypes.

“Government support will keep Russia’s space program on life support as it has been doing for decades. China simply will not care and launch when it feels like it to its own drum, damn the cost. Meanwhile while hand-picked Chinese astronauts are working through their state system to fly their next Salyut castoff, SpaceX will be assembling space stations in lunar orbit under contract to the American taxpayer at the cost of a couple of SLS launches that are meant to appease ULA and some Congressmen.

“There are times I love living in the future.”

To which I (Rod) can only add: this is just the warmup act. What’s coming next will make Space a real place, and will put all these other guys as out of business as the horse-and-buggy industry. It’s not just coming. It’s almost here.

The Future is Almost Here originally appeared as a Facebook post by Rod D. Martin.