With the Dragon capsules fully capable of ISS interaction now, how hard would it be to use the dragons for ISS tugs as is?
One of the quite useful pieces of on orbit hardware is a space tug that off loads the critical maneuvering capabilities from the launch vehicles. A launch vehicle that does not need those capabilities will be simpler and cheaper, not to mention safer, than one that does require all the bells and whistles. I am wondering if the capability to accept cargoes from multiple suppliers for the ISS has stealthed its’ way into operational use without any of us noticing.
It would be interesting to know if Atlas and Delta, or even Sea Launch and foreign suppliers, could deliver payloads to just outside the exclusion zone for a Dragon to tug to ISS. Financially it wouldn’t seem to make sense. Politically though it might get several more players pulling in a positive direction. If it suddenly became blindingly obvious that several suppliers could safely and reliably surge major tonnage to an orbital berth, the argument for the Big Rocket would take another hit.