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.
 

Boeing puts foam insulation on one SLS tank

My heart be still: Asked by NASA management to pick up the pace, Boeing managed to put foam insulation on one of the SLS oxygen tanks in less than two weeks.

The reason NASA wanted to pick up the pace? In May contamination had been found in the system’s supply lines.

“The prime contractor determined the vendor was not fully cleaning the tubes and it was leaving residue in the tubes,” McErlean said. “This was retained as a requirement in the prime contractor’s spec, but it was not properly carried out.” Boeing is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, but he did not disclose the vendor who provided the contaminated tubing.

The contamination was initially found in a single tube, he said, but later checks found similar residue in other tubes. All the tubing in the core stage is now being inspected and cleaned, a process he said is not straightforward because of the “mass of tubing” in the engine section and also because cleaning is a “non-trivial process.”

In reading the first link above, however, I do not get the sense that things with SLS are really moving quickly. Instead, I get, as I have for this entire project, the sense that the pace is designed to proceed at a glacial pace. Thus, when they need to get things done more more quickly, they can easily do so. Whether that increased speed is really fast, however, remains to me quite questionable.

Note: My appearance tomorrow night on the John Batchelor Show will be focused entirely on NASA’s effort to slow commercial space down, so as to reduce the embarrassment to SLS. I am going to make believe I am giving a briefing to Mike Pence and the National Space Council, explaining in detail why NASA actually seems hostile to getting anything done.

It is our hope that maybe someone in the administration might hear it, and rethink the Trump space policy.

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6 comments

  • Edward

    Among the problems with delaying the commercial manned space program (CCDev) is that it affects the companies that intend to launch their own space stations or space habitats. Without commercial manned spacecraft, these companies have no practicable way to get people to their proposed orbital outposts. Meanwhile, they expend money and resources waiting for NASA to do what it has promised, but have little or no revenues to show for their expenditures.

    Not only does this hamper revenue for these companies, but it delays the science, engineering, and commercial operations that will be able to start soon after private manned launches start.

    Perhaps Bigelow should have kept up his America’s Space Prize competition.

  • Richard M

    For your appearance on the Batchelor show tonight: As show prep, you might want to read Jeff Foust’s new article up on Commercial Crew delays over at The Space Review: http://thespacereview.com/article/3535/1

  • Richard M

    P.S. I do think there’s a danger in treating such a vast agency as NASA as a homogeneous creature; as we know, its various centers are often at odds with each other, pursuing very different agendas. And even within those offices, not all personnel may be of the same mind.

    I have the sense that there are genuine supporters of Commercial Crew generally and SpaceX particularly within NASA – I know such people, as I know more than a few space reporters do! – but others might have other agendas. Setting aside Orion/SLS legacy protection mindsets, I think we can also assume that Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy is hard, hard at work in certain offices, including a few desks in the Commercial Crew certification program. They have to justify their existence and their procedures, too, you know.

  • Richard M: I have. It seemed to me that the skepticism he and other journalists have for SpaceX’s ability to launch within a month or so is simply unfounded. If NASA got out of the way, SpaceX could definitely put this capsule into orbit, within weeks. They proved they could do this on short notice with both the X-37B and the Zuma launches. There is no reason to doubt their ability to do it now with crew Dragon.

    The delays are all NASA imposed. The agency is not interested in space exploration. It is interested in power politics, for the benefit of its big contractors, most especially Boeing.

  • Richard M

    Hello Robert,

    Oh, I didn’t necessarily mean to endorse Foust at every point – just to highlight it as prominent new reportage on Commercial Crew that you might want to be aware of (naturally, you already were!).

    I think (as I believe you do) that Jeff generally does solid reporting; I think he also can only be as good as his sources, and his sources seem to lean more skeptical on both contractor schedules now. But more to the point, his focus seemed to be on the actual schedule that’s developing, not the *reasons* for it.

    I don’t disagree that the holdups in this final phase are virtually all driven by NASA requirements. (Hell, even Boeing might have been able to fly Starliner by now, too.) And SpaceX is forced to act as a hostage to its client’s needs here; they are rarely in a position to publicly lambaste NASA for its bureaucratic kabuki dances.

    One day, however, a *very* interesting book is going to be written about this entire program, when the principals are more free to talk about it. I will lay a sizable sum that Musk works extra hard to keep NASA away from crew BFR/BFS development if he can possibly help it.

  • Richard M: Yes, Jeff Foust is a superb space journalist. He focuses hard on getting things right. Here however I think he is too skeptical of SpaceX’s abilities, and too credulous of NASA’s safety requirements.

    I also agree that NASA is not a monolithic organization. In the case of commercial crew, however, the hostile forces have been waging a running battle of retreat for years, aimed at slowing the advance of private space down as much as possible. The delays in commercial space recently are just another example of this.

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