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.

ArianeGroup ships the 1st Ariane-6 core and upper stages to French Guiana

Capitalism in space: ArianeGroup today announced that the first completed stages for its new Ariane-6 rocket have been shipped to French Guiana for testing.

The Ariane 6 core stage and upper stage intended for the combined tests on the launch pad in French Guiana have left the ArianeGroup sites in Les Mureaux and Bremen and begun their journey to Europe’s Spaceport. These stages will be integrated by ArianeGroup in the Launcher Assembly Building (BAL) to create the central core for the Ariane 6 combined tests model.

The press release provided no information on the schedule for the tests or the first launch. An earlier release had targeted the second quarter of ’22 for the inaugural launch, but based on today’s press release I would suspect that scheduled is very tentative.

This press release marks another major change in how Europe will launch rockets. No longer is the government-run Arianespace in charge. Instead, the commercial partnership of Airbus and Safran, dubbed ArianeGroup, is running things. In exchange for building this new rocket this partnership demanded a greater share of the profits and full control, something the European Space Agency (ESA) had denied them under Arianespace. This new arrangement was devised in the hope it would give this private partnership a direct interest in making a profit, thus cutting costs and encouraging innovation.

However, because ESA is still very very closely involved in every step, it is uncertain whether this arrangement will achieve its goals. Moreover, there are indications that ArianeGroup itself is somewhat risk adverse. For example, in designing Ariane-6 both decided to forego re-usability. Their rocket is thus more expensive than SpaceX, and has had trouble garnering launch contracts.


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  • Joe

    I don’t see how this rocket is going to be relevant in the future. None of it is reusable. It will suffer the same long draw out death that the SLS will eventually undergo. There is a new game in town and everyone but governments are playing it.

  • LocalFulff

    Yeah, it provides no further capability. Why spending $4 billion on developing that? Even if cost per launch will be lower by say $40 million (we’ll see about that), it takes 100 launches to justify the development cost. And it is still more than twice as expensive as a Falcon 9 with greater lift capacity!

    If anything, they should keep on producing Ariane 5s, because it has been phenomenally successful and reliable. When you launch a billion dollar payload, you don’t care so much about those last $50 million or so extra for the launch. You want proven stuff. Falcon 9 is also extremely successful and reliable, so at most you can hope for being at par with that, albeit at a higher price. One of the first Ariane 6 launches will fail, that is highly likely as with all new rockets. That’s bad marketing. Sometimes a launch failure is caused by design problems that cannot reasonably be fixed. Who will pay extra for a greater risk of loss?

    This is only politics. The French make the liquid rocket engine, the Italians make the solid boosters. That defines its basic design, the new European launcher must have both. And so on. What it is all about is that France want other countries to help pay for technology useful for updating their nuclear tipped missiles, so that they can pretend to still be a big boss in international politics. I call it the Trafalgar denial trauma.

    Yeah, concerning reusability. There was a few years ago (I think it has silenced) talk about a later version that would separate its main engine, not the first stage but only the engine, and have it picked up by a helicopter in the ari as it plunges towards Earth. I wonder how easy it is to physically disconnect an engine from the pipings to the tanks and such?

  • LocalFulff

    If I may continue my amateurish speculations about the (main, liquid) engine-only separation thingy.
    What if there’s some hydrogen and oxygen left in the disconnected pipes, that leaks as the pipes are somehow disconnected. There would perhaps be quite some turbulence and over-pressures involved there at high velocity in thin atmosphere as the aerodynamics by disconnection suddenly changes dramatically, and that those gasses in such a process could swirl around. Isn’t there a risk that they would come in contact with an be combusted by the still hot engine?

    I hope that the idea of engine reusability has been abandoned. I’m sure Ariane 6 will fly and be reasonable successful after a few years. But it will add nothing to what Ariane 5 already has.

  • LocalFluff: The engine separation idea was proposed by ULA for its Vulcan rocket, though it appears it is pushing back this option into the far horizon, beyond the sunset.

    As far as I know, Ariane-6 has never had re-usability included in any of its designs.

    ESA is funding research on a follow-on rocket that would use re-usability. I suspect they might get it tested about the same time Starship lands on Mars, while also completing its 100th landing and reuse flight.

  • Icepilot

    “There is a new game in town & no one but Elon is playing it.”

  • geoffc

    Robert: I think the engine seperation idea was vaguely tested with Adilene. Back in 2015 and basically nothing to show for it…

    Similar approach, fly the engine pod back, not the tanks.

  • Jeff Wright

    They looked at flybacks-but quit because they were ‘too large” Ariane 5 should remain. It is more like SLS…nearly stage-and-a-half. Wet workshop maybe. SLS money might be what helped Boeing’s Mach 5 recon project reported today,..though black budgeting is the real target.

    Now Ariane might stick with South America…Imagine a tube rising out of the Pacific trench and up the slope of the Andes. Part Hypacc-part Star Tram. An off shore derrick provides evacuation…and access is a bit above sea level. Unmanned equipment at base and throat…Chile tunnel vets as spokesman.

  • LocalFulff

    @Robert Zimmerman
    Yes of course! Thank you for reminding me. That explains why I’ve heard so little about it…
    I confuse Vulcan with Ariane 6 because Arian 5’s main engine is called Vulcain.

  • Star Bird

    Your aware what happens when Matter and Anti-Matter are brought together?

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