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. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

Ariane-6 finally wins more launch contracts

Arianespace today announced a new slew of launch contracts, including two for its mostly Italian-built Vega rocket family and four for its Ariane family of rockets.

The latter launch contract is significant as those four launches, putting eight more Galileo GPS-type satellites in orbit for the European Union over the next three years, will all be launched by Arianespace’s new Ariane-6 rocket, built and owned by the commercial company ArianeGroup.

The significance is twofold. First, Ariane-6 has struggled to get launch customers because its launch cost is far higher than SpaceX’s, to a point that the low number of contracts weren’t paying for the cost of development. This new contract overcomes that difficulty by adding four more launches.

Second, the nature of all of Ariane-6’s contracts underscore the difficulties it is having. Before the arrival of SpaceX’s mostly reusable and very inexpensive Falcon 9 rocket, Arianespace held 50% of the market share for commercial launch contracts, using its Ariane-5 rocket. Those customers have mostly vanished, however, switching to SpaceX. Ariane-6 was conceived — by the government-run European Space Agency — as a newer cheaper rocket that would recapture some of that market. All of its launch contracts, both old and new, demonstrate that it is failing to do so, however. Its only customers so far are coming from European government entities, who are required to use Ariane-6 as part of their partnership in the European Union and the European Space Agency. No private concern, inside or outside Europe, seems interested in using Ariane-6. It just costs too much.

For Europe to compete in the new commercial launch market it needs to build better rockets. And to do this it needs to release its rocket industry from the control of government.


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  • Richard M

    One wonders: If Ariane 6 can hardly compete with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. how will it compete with Starship, Neutron, or Terran R, all of which will be coming online not longer after Ariane 6?

    Arianespace’s new rocket is squarely aimed at where the launch market was 6 years ago.

  • Richard M: Ariane-6 won’t compete. Instead, it will survive because ESA will mandate (a popular word these days with apparachiks) that its member nations use it for all government launches. The result will be that Europe’s space effort will repressed because it will cost too much to launch many things.

    The story above is exactly an example of that. The Galileo satellites could be launched much cheaper on other rockets, but ESA needs customers for Ariane-6, so that’s the rocket they launch on.

  • Jeff Wright

    It’s also about pride. China won’t launch a milsat to spy on them…and giving Euros to Musk galls the French.

  • Questioner

    Mr. Z .:

    An important question for you: is it true that you – we many here – are also opponents of globalization? I suppose, although I cannot recall any specific comment from you on this. If so, then you should also reject the important element of globalization – the free exchange of goods and services worldwide, which of course also includes the offer of satellite rocket launches! So no worldwide free economic market for satellite launches from your (and our) point of view !? There is also a strategic, military element here. No sovereign state in the world will forego its own ability to launch satellites just because of the price!

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “The result will be that Europe’s space effort will repressed because it will cost too much to launch many things.

    This may apply for the government launches, but as long as the commercial companies are free to choose then Europe’s commercial space industry should be able to thrive based upon the best launcher for their needs.

  • pzatchok

    I wouldn’t call it winning more launch contracts. The Eu nations are forced to use them.

    As for any Eu nation being able to afford a launch industry on its own. If Iran, NK and India can afford it why not Germany, France and GB?
    As for European billionaires starting or investing in a private launch company. Why can’t all those EU billionaires do just that? Whats stopping them?
    There are just as many billionaires in the Eu as in the USA. Maybe even more.

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