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CurtisLeow t1_jdj6s8t wrote

Absolutely, Commercial Crew really started with CRS. SpaceX got a large contract in 2008, for a cargo capsule, when the company was just a couple hundred people. SpaceX didn’t do a crewed launch until 2020. There are multiple NewSpace European space companies comparable in size to SpaceX in 2008. PLD Space, in Spain, is an example I remember reading about. Or ESA could work with European subsidiaries of American companies. Rocket Lab has a New Zealand subsidiary that has launched rockets using American-built engines.

Yes, it would be dumb for Europe to go straight for crewed launches. But ESA can start with funding a capsule style cargo vehicle similar to Dragon. That wouldn’t even cost that much money. CRS is just a couple hundred million a year. That’s within ESA’s budget right now. ESA could also fund little space stations or space station modules. Those aren’t expensive either, if you make them barely bigger than a capsule. Then work up to a European crewed capsule a decade or more from now.


HolyGig t1_jdjcyo8 wrote

CRS is not that expensive on its own, but the ISS won't be around for much longer and it does cost a lot to maintain a crewed presence. In other words, Europe would be spending a lot on hiring Dragons/Starliners for crew plus the cost to orbit a new station, whatever that would look like, just in order to necessitate the need for a European CRS in the first place.

NASA seems to be going all in on commercial station(s). How that will work exactly is a bit of a mystery but there seems to be at least three (Axiom, Orbital Reef and Starlab) that seem fairly serious and are all getting some NASA funding. Mostly looks like private investment though. Looks like Airbus is a partner on Starlab so perhaps that is the one angling for ESA patronage the most. If that is the case, ESA wouldn't have control over the services contract since it would be commercially operated.

Its all interesting stuff but its still pretty early