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.
 

A new net for Mr. Steven

Photos of the ship, Mr. Steven, that SpaceX wants to use to recover its rocket fairings show that the company has installed a new net for catching those fairings.

The article theorizes that this heftier net has actually been installed for eventually catching the Falcon 9’s upper stage.

[T]he newly-installed net is by all appearances magnitudes larger, heavier, and stronger than the minimal mesh specimen it is clearly replacing. Given the fact that SpaceX thus far has self-admittedly failed to catch a gliding fairing half in the net, it seems unlikely that such a drastic upgrade would be necessitated by any field-testing that occurred since Mr. Steven’s debut late last year. Rather, a significantly more capable net seems to more readily fit alongside CEO Elon Musk’s tweet reveal three weeks prior that SpaceX would attempt to close the final major loop of Falcon reusability by recovering the orbital upper stage (S2). Estimated to weigh approximately 4000 kilograms empty, the upper stage is a minimum of four times heavier than Falcon 9’s payload fairing halves, Mr Steven’s current meal of choice.

Judging from the new net’s beefy rigging, broader bars, and general appearance, one could safely argue that it looks at least several times stronger than the mesh net before it. One could also argue that the absolutely massive metal arms installed on Mr. Steven are far larger than what might be required to catch the extremely low mass-to-area ratio payload fairings, with structural heft and bulky netting more reminiscent of safety nets present on naval vessels that are designed to catch aircraft and helicopters weighing five metric tons or more.

This is an interesting theory, but I have my doubts. At the same time, I would not dismiss Musk’s willingness to try daring engineering approaches.

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2 comments

  • Kirk

    There has been some speculation that Mr. Steven could be used to catch a returning Dragon capsule, keeping it out of the water to make refurbishment for reuse easier, but with Dragon coming down under round parachutes, all the maneuvering would have to be done by the recovery ship.

  • wodun

    Even if a 2nd stage wasn’t able to fly again, they would still get a good inspection to see how it has been performing.

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