NASA and DOD have spent a lot of effort on creating costing models for aerospace development. By the standard costing model the Falcon 9/Dragon should have cost 4B+ to develop. Using the most optimistic costing model it should have cost 1.6B. The documented actual cost is 390M. All of the traditional aerospace companies would have told you that it was impossible. Accepted "Facts" can be wrong. Spacex now has a backlog of > 3B. It looks like Spacex will be a business success with investment returns in excess of 10x. Elon has proven to be a brilliant business man in multiple fields.
Spacex has assembled a group of really talented people, many of them with a history in the traditional aerospace environment. If you read the bios on the Spacex web site here. You will discover that many of the senior engineering people came from large aerospace organizations. They used their experience to build the best rocket they could. They had a clean sheet of paper and enough resources to do the job.They fixed most of the business problems in the traditional aerospace model, they embraced vertical integration and the rejected the traditional aerospace supply chain. Win, win, win.
Now I'm going to ask you to get into your time machine.
Go back to the late 1970's. Take a large budget and go hire the best and brightest computer engineers from IBM, DEC, Prime,HP etc... . Give them a clean sheet of paper and allow them to fix any problems they see in the traditional computer business. Turn them loose and volia you have a killer minicomputer. It outperforms the DEC VAX and cost 1/2 as much. Its better than the rest of the industry in every way...... Instead of costing 120,000 or so it only costs 60,000. The orders pile up and the traditional computer companies would be worried. Meanwhile a guy named Wozniak with no degree and no experience designing computers is building a computer to impress his friends at the homebrew computer club. The Apple I soon to be an Apple II, in every measurable technical way the Apple II was inferior to the minicomputers of the day, except one, price. If you had asked the engineers from DEC,IBM, Prime, HP etc... to design you a useful computer that could be sold for less than 3000 they would have laughed at you.
So the question I ask is it possible to be a Wozniak in the space access area?
If its possible, you aren't going to get their via SBIR, because the SBIR evaluators with their reality closely tied to traditional aerospace model will be laughing.
You won't be able to do it by selling parts to other aerospace companies, IE Mr Wozniak did not start by building low cost memory cards to sell to DEC, the whole concept of modular cards and back planes as implemented in big computer land cost more than the whole apple I. The whole concept of separate bolt together components going into a launcher will need to be changed. The size scope and scale of what you build will not be appropriate for traditional aerospace.
Traditional aerospace customers will laugh at you and ridicule you... until one of you ends up unemployed and looking like a fool.
Clearly the microcomputer revolution was enabled by Mores law and the physics of space flight will not have any such exponential favoring factor.
Wozniak did not build any custom silicon, he use commercial off the shelf parts in new ways. I believe that modern CNC, 3D manufacturing and automated composite construction can be leveraged in a similar way.
This concept of comparing aerospace, old minicomputers and the PC revolution is not an original idea of mine. Charles at http://www.microlaunchers.com/ has used this comparison for years.
Frankly I never really got it. I thought it was a bit too much of a stretch. For the last 4 years I've been reading, studying and brainstorming on really low cost launch concepts. I've also been a rabid Spacex fan following what they are doing and cheering their success. In my though experiments I keep coming up with differnt solution concepts than Spacex. The Spacex solutions keep looking like traditional aerospace, but with much better execution, why is that? Is the traditional super high tech method the only way to achieve space launch? Then it dawns on me that Elon/Spacex hired the wizards from DEC, IBM, HP etc.. to build a better computer. In that context it ALL makes perfect sense.