Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

SpaceX raises $500 million for Starship, twice the amount planned

Capitalism in space: In a just completed fund-raising round, SpaceX raised twice the investment capital proposed, $500 million instead of $250 million.

These funds are in addition to the $1.33 billion raised previously. And according to the SpaceX official in charge of their Starlink satellite constellation, most of this money is not for Starlink:

While SpaceX expects it will cost about $10 billion or more to build the Starlink network, [vice president Jonathan] Hofeller said the company’s fundraising so far has largely not been directed to the Starlink division, as “we’ve been able to fund the development of Starlink primarily from our internal businesses.” He declared the company is in a “different position” in how it raises funds compared to other companies that are building satellite networks. “That’s why, in general, we’ve been very quiet about what we’re doing because we don’t need to go out and raise money for this particular venture,” Hofeller said.

This means the $1.83 billion raised is almost certainly all for developing Starship/Super Heavy.

Can SpaceX build this new heavy lift completely reusable rocket for that price? Considering that it cost them $500 million to develop Falcon Heavy, and that much of the engineering work from that will be applicable for the new rocket, I am willing to bet that they can.

My prediction is further reinforced by the company’s recent activities testing Starship’s tanks at Boca Chica, Texas. Only two weeks after a test to failure (resulting in some spectacular fireworks), the company has apparently successfully completed new tank tests on the next prototype.

In other words, they blew up a prototype, were able to clean up the mess, redesign what failed, and test it successfully, in only two weeks. To say such a pace would be impossible for NASA and its big space contractors like Boeing is probably the biggest understatement I’ve ever made.

This success should not make anyone think that the challenge of building Starship/Super Heavy will be easy or fast. This effort will be cutting edge engineering that in many ways will be beyond that edge. SpaceX is guaranteed to have further test failures along the way. Their pace, management approach, and track record however shows that the company knows how to deal with such issues, and will thus be able to proceed to completion.

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


 

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


 

If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
 
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

17 comments

  • Edward

    I especially like the way the report in the last link phrases it: “agile development.” SpaceX is not letting failures slow down development.

    Alternatively, SpaceX may have developed a new way of creating modern art.

  • Dick Eagleson

    I figured the money raised over the past year was going to mostly or entirely go to building Starlink with Starship being funded out of earnings from operations. But if the opposite is true, that can only mean Musk is dead serious about his recent tweets and remarks anent making mass production capability for Starship the near-term priority. That explains both the rapid build-up in Boca Chica, including a doubling of the workforce there two weeks ago, and the sudden push to revive the San Pedro Starship factory project. It probably also presages the announcement of a third assembly site for Starships by summer – assuming just doubling both the facilities and workforce at Boca Chica again isn’t seen as the quickest way to get the needed additional production capacity on-line soonest.

    Musk is a creature we saw many of in the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th – an industrialist entrepreneur. But they’ve been few and far-between since WW2 and there have been more failures than successes. We’re now seeing something we haven’t seen since Henry J. Kaiser started tooling up to build Liberty ships during WW2 – a flank speed push to begin genuine mass production of something really big.

  • wayne

    Dick-
    Good stuff.

    Henry Kaiser
    “Think Big”
    https://youtu.be/jIV4sWbUamU
    4:57

  • pzatchok

    Could Musk be angling for the SpaceForce contract for their first spaceships?

    With a running production line he would only need to reconfigure the interiors for military needs.
    Some for personnel transport.
    Some for cargo transport.
    Some for refueling needs. They will need some fuel to get back to orbit. And of course for in orbit refueling.
    Eventually some could be armed and armored for space combat. To an extent.
    He could charge a billion dollars a copy and still come in way cheaper than anyone else. How much was the government charged per copy for the last fighter we bought?

    He doesn’t need more than 10 for his satellite network. Who is buying all the rest?

    Boeing. Lockheed, no one could design test and set up a production line this fast to compete with Musk.
    With this one contract he could end up buying out one of those old big guys and liquidate it off keeping all the patents.

  • Mark Matis

    Mr. Musk is the reincarnation of P.T. Barnum, but with more money and less ethics!

  • wayne

    Mark–
    You’re confusing Musk with Frank Andrew Munsey (21 August 1854 – 22 December 1925) nominally the creator of the “pulp magazines,” Argosy/All Story being his flagship title.

    from the snob who wrote his obituary…
    “Frank Munsey contributed to the journalism of his day the talent of a meat packer, the morals of a money changer and the manner of an undertaker.”

  • wayne

    “Save My Soul”
    Blues Saraceno
    Theme from ‘The Men Who Built America’
    https://youtu.be/lCnzCMBRO1o
    3:20

  • Trent Castanaveras

    pzatchok said: “He doesn’t need more than 10 for his satellite network. Who is buying all the rest?”

    The short answer is, “No one.”

    To build a self sustaining city on Mars will require 1 million tons + of material and a million people, by Musk’s own estimates. The reality is likely beyond that, unless some of the first actions the colonists take are setting up mining and material refinement on an industrial scale.

    Even at 1000 ships (Musk’s current fleet goal) that would take many years to accomplish.

    SpaceX will provide transport. They will not provide Starships for sale.

  • pzatchok

    How much cash would 1000 starships cost Musk?
    Thats cash not available for making more money, investing.

    And he does essentially sell launchers. Every time he launches one with no return its basically sold. He just keeps launch control also.

    If the government wants them a deal will be made.

  • Tim Kyger

    Big question: Can humans live in 1/3 gee? Current evidence would tend to say, no….but we DON’T KNOW. Period.

    Big gamble being taken here….

    (PS: Same goes for 1/6th gee too.)

  • sippin_bourbon

    “Could Musk be angling for the Space Force contract for their first spaceships?”

    Is there any evidence at this point that USSF is even looking for such a thing?

    Their current role is taking care of assets (surveillance, communications, logistical, etc) currently in orbit.
    But I have not gotten the impression that deploying manned vessels is being considered.

    Even if they were to start “militarizing space” (yeah, I know, but that is a whole other conversation), I think they are looking at ground controlled assets, such as unmanned vehicles, or things that can be ordered and launched quickly (within weeks at this point).

    At this point there is no territory to hold in space. Why put a manned vessel in harms way, when they can use ASAT missle or laser systems, or kinetic kill-sats (smash em into each other), or EW (electronic warfare) to jam or fry circuits, or cyber warfare, and simply hack them. All this can be done from the ground. Everything they do is to make sure our assets are available to support actions/campaigns/theaters on the ground. And to inhibit the other guys from doing the same.

  • pzatchok

    I was thinking of them as more a cargo transport from one point on the planet to any other point on this planet.
    Not actually fighting in space.

    As for not having anything in space to fight for.
    What about other nations space stations? Instead of just punching them full of holes we could take them over intact and use them ourselves.
    Or “rescue” the trapped men inside them.

    As a thought exercise. How would you take back the ISS if Russia decided they didn’t want any Americans on it anymore?
    You would first need a ship capable of at least getting there.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Tim Kyger: Exactly. This should be a huge priority to find out. It is all guesswork at this time.
    I’m interested to know what evidence you have that 1/6 or 1/3 gee is no good. I’m not sure the microgravity stuff is relevant.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Could a couple of Starships be coupled by a shaft from their noses while on orbit, rotated and 1/6 and 1/3 gee be generated? A few months should provide some clues about the shape of the curve from zero to 1g.
    My personal guess is that something of the order of > 0.1 gee is likely OK. Just a WAG though.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Pzatchok,
    Transfer of military forces via an orbital vehicle would be cost prohibitive at this point. Plus, there is added Risk. You cannot accomplish the mission if you do not get there. Once (if) it gets there, you have lost the asset, because the starship would sit until refueled. You would need to move the fuel and the fueling equipment to this site, which may or may not be secure. So probable one way trip, makes it more costly.

    This, weighed against current Air Force mobility assets. Lower cost, proven, lower risk, plentiful, easier to train on and train for.

    It shift might happen eventually, but I don’t think it will be with Starship.

    As for your thought experiment for the ISS. Put a hole through it. Then later patch it, recover an atmosphere and walk in the front door. But this is an extreme hypothetical. And the important question: Why? The ISS is not a worth taking/holding in a shooting war. If we are shooting up there, what’s happening down here?

  • David Fenger

    Why take ISS back at all? Let them have it if they want to get stroppy, the inclination’s a pain to get to.

    Send up a Starship with a toolkit and some rolls of lining material, leave it on orbit. Punch some holes in the tank bulkheads, deploy liner (anti-meteorite and some radiation protection). Now you have a space station with more internal volume than the ISS. Add solar panels as needed.

  • Edward

    David Fenger,

    NanoRacks hopes to do just that, though not necessarily with a Starship.
    https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/nanoracks-outlines-its-private-space-station-plans/

Readers: the rules for commenting!

 

No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.

 

However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.

 

Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *