Author Topic: Thought experiment: SpaceX and reusable rocketry are Chinese assets  (Read 2098 times)

Offline AncientU

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Thought Experiment:

Assume that SpaceX and the development of reusable rocketry (progress to date and plans for future as now exist) were Chinese efforts, conducted in China, and fully funded/supported by the Chinese government.  Additionally, assume that a Chinese-style publicity/propaganda campaign and technical data release (i.e., minimal) controlled the flow of information concerning the technology. 

Assume that all other US/European/Russian/Indian space assets/capabilities are as existing, except that SpaceX is moved over to China.  Note: Don't go down the path of denying that this technology could have developed in China for whatever reason; please go with the thought experiment as proposed.

Assume that Chinese plans for space 'domination' were as stated.


How would the West/World respond politically, technically, etc.?

What would be the National Space Council's agenda and action plan?

What would be NASA's role in this response?


Mods: This is primarily a political question IMO, but if a different thread is more appropriate, feel free to move.
« Last Edit: 09/05/2017 01:29 PM by AncientU »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline Mark K

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Thought Experiment:

Assume that SpaceX and the development of reusable rocketry (progress to date and plans for future as now exist) were Chinese efforts, conducted in China, and fully funded/supported by the Chinese government.  Additionally, assume that a Chinese-style publicity/propaganda campaign and technical data release (i.e., minimal) controlled the flow of information concerning the technology. 

Assume that all other US/European/Russian/Indian space assets/capabilities are as existing, except that SpaceX is moved over to China.  Note: Don't go down the path of denying that this technology could have developed in China for whatever reason; please go with the thought experiment as proposed.

Assume that Chinese plans for space 'domination' were as stated.


How would the West/World respond politically, technically, etc.?

What would be the National Space Council's agenda and action plan?

What would be NASA's role in this response?


Mods: This is primarily a political question IMO, but if a different thread is more appropriate, feel free to move.

The title is misleading. you seem to be  asking what the US policy would be if SpaceX was the Chinese Space Agency.

So much else would have had to change in China to have an organization like SpaceX be there that I don't think you can really say - You can't say all else would be the same since there would be no way the issue would happen if all else was the same.

But lets assume some favored child of some military leader came up with the idea and the tech was pushed.
I think there would still be a bigger window for others to duplicate the technology.  If the tech was not used as a stepping stone to new space ventures then even if the US did nothing but invest in new expendables, what is the big deal? We are talking a $10 Billion/year industry. Even if the US over payed, it would still be peanuts.

The key for SpaceX and Blue Origin to really change the landscape is if they are enablers for new things. So re-usable cheaper rockets are nice, but it is the same old question for the Chinese as it is here. Will it lead to big changes in how people use space? It isn't the rockets in the end it is the Satellite Constellations, bases, resource use and products that would be enabled by the rockets. Would that happen with the Chinese government having a reusable rocket?

Offline AncientU

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...
The title is misleading. you seem to be  asking what the US policy would be if SpaceX was the Chinese Space Agency.

...

Yes, I'm asking what would be the US and other national policies if China had been the one to develop SpaceX-like reusable technology and development plans (e.g., FH coming together for a fall/spring launch, Raptor on the test stand, ITSy being announced in Adelaide this month, etc.) -- via a SpaceX-like company being a Chinese private or public entity -- instead of having the technology developed here in the US.  All other National space assets are as currently exist, less SpaceX not existing in USA but established in China.

Since this is a thought experiment, it is fair game to discuss what already accomplished policies/activities would have been stimulated by early promises/progress by the Chinese-SpaceX.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline Kansan52

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No change.

Offline Proponent

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This is not exactly the scenario envisioned in the OP, but a Chinese company is talking about a SpaceX-like approach.

Offline incoming

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There's no way a SpaceX like entity could exist in today's China. That's not the way their system of government and their economy works.

So I'll follow the theme that there is some PLA affiliated state run corporation who has developed EELV class rockets, capsules that can carry pressurized cargo to LEO, and have demonstrated the ability to land a first stage.  They also claim to be working on a heavy lift launch system and a spacecraft that can carry a few people to LEO and perhaps around the moon, although all none of that has been demonstrated to be anywhere beyond the design and early test phase. 

Well, for starters, they already have all that except they have, for several years, been capable of flying people in space (which SpaceX has yet to do).  They only part they haven't done (in real life) is demonstrated first stage reusability.

So...since in pretty much every other way the real Chinese space program is actually ahead of SpaceX, you are asking what would be the repercussions if the Chinese released a video of one of their first stages landing on a barge or at the launch site, and they claimed they had reused the first stage for another launch (which we would be incapable of independently verifying)?

Very, very little.  There would probably be some level of discussion on whether the Chinese were actually on to something in terms of achieving economically viable reusability or if they were just learning the same "lessons" we learned from shuttle - that reusability is hard but economical reusability elusive if not impossible. Whatever claims they make about the economic viability of it would be dismissed, because it's china and noone would believe them.  Heck, a lot of people don't even believe SpaceX (the real world version here in the U.S.) in terms of the economic viability.   

The U.S. aerospace contractors would probably point to their super heavy lift development plans as evidence of how we need to double down on our own plans, but they basically do that already. 

So...honestly, I don't think it would really change anything at all.


Offline spacenut

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I think that what he is saying is; What if China were developing like SpaceX, public or private?  Then what would the US government or US companies do to compete?  Would they try to develop reusable rockets in order to compete with China? 

Offline nicp

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Call me cynical - and I am - I just think the usual players would go to the government with the biggest possible cap in hand and without question use the word 'billion' at least once.
Where's my Guinness?

Offline AncientU

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Call me cynical - and I am - I just think the usual players would go to the government with the biggest possible cap in hand and without question use the word 'billion' at least once.

The real question is how would the USG respond to that request?  Would the DoD be taking a sit back and wait for the Chinese to fail posture?  Would anyone at the Pentagon be concerned about someone (not exactly an ally) gaining the ability to launch a hundred heavy rockets per year at lower cost per flight than anyone else in the world?  Would NASA/Congress be concerned that US 'leadership' in space was at risk?

I think it would be possible for many/most of the political establishment to 'laugh' it off and assure their constituency that there was no way USA would ever become second rate in space... no way... don't want to talk about such a ridiculous thing... no way...
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Online meberbs

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So...since in pretty much every other way the real Chinese space program is actually ahead of SpaceX, you are asking what would be the repercussions if the Chinese released a video of one of their first stages landing on a barge or at the launch site, and they claimed they had reused the first stage for another launch (which we would be incapable of independently verifying)?

Given the lack of response in the U.S. to China having a space station, landing probes on the moon, and planning a lunar sample return, and the general evidence that they are rapidly catching up to the U.S. in space, I agree that this scenario wouldn't really change much, maybe a few more space advocates in support of Blue Origin.

I disagree a little bit on the details though. There would be no more doubt about the successful landings in China than there is for SpaceX's landings. Doubts about the reuse would mostly be related to the extent of refurbishment. A couple big parts that have been part of why SpaceX is so revolutionary would be missing in China though. SpaceX operates in the U.S. at a profit that clearly is funding lots of R&D work, while offering impressively cheap launches without reusability. In China, it would be 100% government funded and real launch costs would basically be an unknown. This combined with doubts about the cost of refurbishment would destroy a lot of the game changing nature of SpaceX. ITS would be taken no more (probably less) seriously than NASA's "Journey to Mars" PR with infographics showing Orion at Mars. In some ways this means the rest of the world might be responding even less than it currently is.

Offline tdperk

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So...since in pretty much every other way the real Chinese space program is actually ahead of SpaceX, you are asking what would be the repercussions if the Chinese released a video of one of their first stages landing on a barge or at the launch site, and they claimed they had reused the first stage for another launch (which we would be incapable of independently verifying)?

Given the lack of response in the U.S. to China having a space station, landing probes on the moon, and planning a lunar sample return, and the general evidence that they are rapidly catching up to the U.S. in space, I agree that this scenario wouldn't really change much, maybe a few more space advocates in support of Blue Origin.

I disagree a little bit on the details though. There would be no more doubt about the successful landings in China than there is for SpaceX's landings. Doubts about the reuse would mostly be related to the extent of refurbishment. A couple big parts that have been part of why SpaceX is so revolutionary would be missing in China though. SpaceX operates in the U.S. at a profit that clearly is funding lots of R&D work, while offering impressively cheap launches without reusability. In China, it would be 100% government funded and real launch costs would basically be an unknown. This combined with doubts about the cost of refurbishment would destroy a lot of the game changing nature of SpaceX. ITS would be taken no more (probably less) seriously than NASA's "Journey to Mars" PR with infographics showing Orion at Mars. In some ways this means the rest of the world might be responding even less than it currently is.

Moving at the pace their technology can support, the Chinese are behind.


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