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.
 

ESA maps out first launch schedule for new rockets

Capitalism in space? The European Space Agency (ESA) today laid out the development roadmap that will lead to the launch of two new rockets, the Vega-C being built by the Italian company Avio, and the Ariane 6 being built by ArianeGroup.

The Vega-C is a more powerful version of the Vega rocket, aimed at capturing the smaller satellite market. It maiden flight is now scheduled for June ’21.

The Ariane 6 is aimed at replacing the Ariane 5, Europe’s big workhorse rocket, but to do so at a lower cost. Its maiden flight is now set for the second quarter of ’22, a significant delay from the previously announced target date in ’21, which itself was a delay from the original late ’20 launch date.

Ariane 6 however has not succeeded in cutting costs enough to match its competitor SpaceX, and thus it continues to have trouble attracting customers, even among ESA’s partner nations that it is meant to serve. These issues have led to rumors that ESA is already looking to either significantly upgrade Ariane 6 (before it even flies), or replace it entirely wit a new re usable rocket.

Readers! My Quick November Fund-Raiser for Behind the Black is now over
 

I cannot thank the numerous people who so generously donated or subscribed to Behind the Black during this fund drive. The response was remarkable, and reflected the steady growth and popularity of the work I have been doing here for the past ten-plus years.


Thank you again!


Though the find-raising campaign is officially over, and I am no longer plastering the main page with requests for help, if you like what you have read you can still contribute, 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.


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One comment

  • Ian C.

    Considering the sorry history of Ariane 6, which is mostly political begging and blackmailing, they should scrap it and do the reusable thing. Though, after I’ve seen what they do in that regard (repeating stuff SpaceX abandoned early, but the bureaucrats like it because someone [i.e. SpaceX] already did something similar in the past so “it’s safe”), I fear they still don’t get it right. It’s not about bold technical decisions or focusing on the market, it’s about pleasing politicians and bureaucrats who decide over their budget.

    Couple years ago (2018?) I read what Ariane interns wrote about their time there. They called SpaceX’s launch vehicles unimpressive, old tech cardboard garbage cheaply glued together to capture the market, while Ariane was gold-plated, first-class engineering development where low prices never were the focus but innovation and perfection. I understand that this is the story they told (tell?) themselves to feel good about their work, but still…

    There are a couple of private launch startups in the EU. And while they began ambitious, most eventually jumped under ESA’s wings — with all the timid and costly technical decisions and slow development it brings with it. SpaceX is smart to keep government money and interference out of Starship’s development.

    John Gall (Systemantics author) described that mindset nicely: “The army is now fully prepared to fight the previous war.”

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