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.

FAA delays final approval of Starship environmental reassessment till Feb 28th

The FAA has now made it official and announced that the final approval of Starship environmental reassessment will not occur before the end of February, thus preventing any Starship orbital test flights until the spring, at the earliest.

As previously announced, the FAA had planned to release the Final PEA in on December 31, 2021. However, due to the high volume of comments submitted on the Draft PEA, discussions and consultation efforts with consulting parties, the FAA is announcing an update to the schedule. The FAA now plans to release the Final PEA on February 28, 2022.

When the rumors of a delay were first noted last week, I predicted that “Starship’s first orbital flight will not happen until the latter half of ’22, if then.” That prediction is now almost certainly confirmed.

Nor I am not confident the FAA’s environmental reassessment of SpaceX’s launch facility in Boca Chica will be ready even in February. The problem appears to be that the FAA needs to also get the approval of both NOAA and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife agencies, and both appear to be very hostile to SpaceX’s efforts.

In fact, this is beginning to look like the situation in Hawaii with the Thirty Meter Telescope. There protesters blocked the start of construction, and the government, controlled by Democrats, worked with those protesters to step by step keep that obstruction active and working. If so, SpaceX faces a very dangerous situation, as it appears the Biden administration is about to do the same thing to it.

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51 comments

  • Joe

    But unlike the TMT in Hawaii, SpaceX can fight back by refusing to fly payload or drastically increasing prices for such flights. it is what I would do if I was continually hampered.

  • David Eastman

    Yeah, I don’t see Elon Musk quietly shrugging and walking away from all the investment in Boca Chica and starting over somewhere else. Even the plans recently announced for the cape have to go through some of the same approvals, so it’s not like it’s a given there is a backup site available.

  • SpaceX can fight back

    I certainly hope so – Musk has shown he does not take things lying down.

    Problem is, there are not a few in government who would, as the old saying goes, “rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven” and would accept the former if it can put the “uppity” Musk “in his place”, in submission to their rule.

  • Charles Lurio

    I wanted to believe your predictions were wrong on this Bob, but now I’m wondering whether the Biden people will break the back of SpaceX. It’s embarrassing to do better than the socialists, and they are ruthless in suppressing their opponents.

    If SpaceX can’t start testing they can’t get the V2.0 Starlinks up soon enough. And if they can’t do that there goes the revenue backing Raptor production and the whole Starship program.

    Your TMT analogy is a canny one, all too possible.

    I just looked at my Nov. 14 issue. In October Elon was hoping for an orbital test in November. Even accounting for Elon time, an artificial delay by a couple of months is no joke.

  • Charles Lurio: Yup. I hate to say it, but when my instincts go ding! they are too often right. And they are dinging quite loudly in watching the federal bureaucracy stall SpaceX.

  • Steve Richter

    what is the end game for the democrats? This can only hurt them politically. Judging simply from YouTube, there are a lot of SpaceX enthusiasts. And many are not republican. Every time SpaceX achieves a milestone, that boosts national morale. The more optimistic the voters are, the better for the party seeking reelection. Not saying an orbital launch of Starship will have people dancing in the streets. But it sure could be spun by the party in power if they put some effort into it. And then there is geo politics. China must be working on a super heavy/starship clone. At least on reusing the first stage. It is imperative for the US to stay dominant in space. And SpaceX is an incredible asset to the country. So idiotic for democrats to block SpaceX.

  • Alton

    Steve:

    The Dims endgame is to pass HR1 through Congress. Destroying the filibuster by any and all means possible. Thus changing the Electorial Process not only in the Blue but also the Red States….. until all power is held by the party minions.

    Manchin as the Defender of the Constitution and Congressional Rules?

    The FBI under Attorney General Garland already has an open investigation of the Senator’s daughter going back to about 2010.
    Ready Aim…. Drop

    The Only Problem is What Dogs would be let loose by that action….

    23 Dims retiring as of Today—–

    Whatever It takes….. from the Whitehouse
    https://youtu.be/4KB3-GAs7Go

  • brightdark

    Betcha the Power That Be want SpaceX to crash enough to force a sale/joint venture to Boeing and therefore ULA. That way they can dump Vulkan and the BE-4 fiasco.

  • wayne

    The government can get anyone…..

    Rockefeller court speech
    The Men Who Built America (2014)
    https://youtu.be/_LC9Dh4kR_g
    2:44

  • Col Beausabre

    “rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven”

    paraphrased from Lucifer in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

  • wayne

    “Hell on Wheels” Season 5, Episode 14.
    Thomas Durant speech defending his legacy
    https://youtu.be/o30_t_p7bTY
    4:53

    “Americans needed a dream, and I gave them one…. 1,776 miles of iron track, that is what I delivered. Track upon which thousands of wheels will now revolve, carrying on their axles the wealth of half the world……announcing to the world with its piercing scream, that We are a Great People who can accomplish Great Things….Yet, the American people, driven by their cowardly representatives in Washington, are in need of a villain. So here I sit, elected by you, to play my part. The part of the scapegoat, the patsy, sent into the wilderness so that men sitting in this room can lay their sins upon my back and claim they themselves are clean. Men enjoying immunity while enriching themselves on the backs of those who sacrificed everything to make manifest Americas destiny. Blood has been spilled, lives have been lost, men have been ruined. I saw it, and I survived. I will not return from the Wild having made Americas dream a reality, only to have 6 Bureaucrat’s in starched collars judge the manner in which I realized that dream. Put me on trial, lock me in prison, erase me from the record. For History is written in pencil, and the Truth is carved in steel across this Nation. And one truth above all others is this, without me and men like me, your glorious railroad could never have been built….”

  • wayne

    “If you don’t make stuff, there is no stuff.”
    Elon Musk 🚀 / Akira {The} Don
    https://youtu.be/nA4Ya-yKJ0A
    3:23

  • James Street

    Besides destroying capitalism and democracy is Biden’s goal here to transfer SpaceX’s technology to his godless Chicom commie masters in exchange for all those $500,000 paintings of Hunter’s that they bought…

  • wayne

    James Street-
    Sounds perfectly plausible to me.
    These people will stop at nothing.

  • Jeff Wright

    To Wayne, Colm will always be Chief O’Brian to me. ESG Hound got quite the reception when he surfaced at the Space News comments section. I say give the Greens the full BLM treatment with them scared for a change.

  • Finn Harp

    I see Spacex departing for a more constructive home….

    maybe BTC-backing El Salvador? Or Equatorial Africa? Maybe a man-made island like the Chinese built – located someplace outside of any country’s territorial waters? Perhaps partnering on a “Sea-steading” project with Peter Thiel…?

    Or maybe stay at Starbase TX and follow the more conventional method of Boeing/Lockheed/Northrup/etc. – buy himself a permit as long as 10% goes to the Big Guy…

    Regardless of the backup plan, Musk will find a way to get it done.

  • Finn, compliance with ITAR requirements likely precludes SpaceX moving to another nation – though a move into international waters might be a viable option.

  • Questioner

    Do we see the beginning of an epic failure of the Starhsip case, which can perhaps only be topped by the coming fall of Tesla shares to the level it is entitled to?

    God Elon Musk himself pointed out the other day that Starship needs a very high launch sequence, otherwise SpaceX would go bankrupt. With his insane goal of colonizing Mars there is hardly any money to be made, so it depends on Starlink as a money maker. What is the situation like there? Will Starlink be technically and commercially successful? Can someone here provide real, qualified information on this? Thank you!

  • Col Beausabre

    ” otherwise SpaceX would go bankrupt.”

    This will horrify all the Musk fanbois, but let it. Whatever it has in terms of people, physical assets and intellectual property will be absorbed by a firm(s) better able to compete. Nothing and no one is sacred in the marketplace

  • Questioner

    Col Beausabre:

    Yes, you are right about reuse of the marketplace. Elon Musk definitely has his undying merits – no matter how everything turns out.

    Well, a number of his ideas like solar roof, rocket propelled car, hyperloop, boring company and a few others turned out to be BS ideas. However, he made significant contributions to the introduction of the electric car on a large scale and to reducing costs in space travel, which makes all the other stuff forgotten. Even if do not really know financial data of SpaceX.

    For me it is still very difficult to understand at the moment how he can come to such different results. Maybe just coincidence. He just expels out a large number of seemingly bold (often rather old, i.e. reused) technological ideas. Some hits will already be there.

  • As with our energy sources (coal vs. natural gas) I have no problem with businesses failing due to honest competition.

    I DO have a problem when they are driven towards failure by bureaucracy and politics. No innovator is safe, no matter how honest or good on the merits they are., if a bunch of drones who will pay no price for being wrong can impose their beliefs and interests upon the innovator.

  • Questioner

    Jester Naybor:

    One should not complain about the influence of the bureaucracy and the state when, like Elon Musk, one has received so much government aid, subsidies and crucial government contracts for SpaceX, but also for Tesla. To the extent that Musk’s companies would not exist in their current form without taxpayer’s help.

  • Steve Richter

    “… like Elon Musk, one has received so much government aid, …”
    What government aid has he received? If government aid gives such a boost, where are the other Elons, accomplishing great things in the marketplace? If anyone is getting benefit from the other, it is the US government and nation which gains from Elon. The US lead in EV technology is entirely due to Tesla. NASA will be able to return to the Moon literally on the back of SpaceX.

  • Localfluff

    Perhaps SpaceX could build a launch pad a couple of miles to the south, on the Mexican side of the border. Transport the Boca Chica-made rockets there, fuel them with pipelines and launch from there?

  • Localfluff … one word stands in the way of that: ITAR.

    International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

    Those regulations will work against SpaceX moving operations to another nation.

  • Questioner, in addition to Steve Richter’s good observations, I will add that the NOAA/FWS involvement is another example of how technocrats (who pay no direct price for being wrong) use the coercive force of law to impose their BELIEFS regarding the “common good”, as though they are omniscient and infallible.

    The problem is not that Musk took the subsidies and aid, as others did and did far less with it. The problem with those is that they were offered at all, as carrots by the same bureaucrats who use the coercive force of law as a stick to “guide” us like domestic animals.

    That is how we unplug most of the distributed intellect in a nation from problem-solving.

    That is not a free society.

    And as for his space operations, from what I see what Musk got from the government is payment for services rendered … and rendered better than the government could have rendered them itself.

  • John

    They’ve weaponized the rest of the government, why not the weather department? Yes, all bow to the power and authority of NOAA. Partly cloudy skies with a chance of rain, serfs.

    I’d like to remind Mr. Musk that the administration does not take a kind view to his tweets regarding the honorable Sen Pocahontas, the army of IRS tax collectors for ordinary people, and the inflating of our currency to nothing.

    If he would stop posting social media wrongthink, then maybe some permits would be forthcoming. We can’t yet censor everything.

  • Questioner

    I believe Elon Musk is currently not worrying as much about possible delays caused by environmental authorities as some of his fanboys do. His technical facilities are far from ready for an orbital Starship launch attempt and there is a lot to do with all the details of the infrastructure during the completion. So today there will be another static fire test with the S20 (just in this moment).

    Anyway, I strongly recommend all SpaceX fanboys to come to a healthy attitude towards this company and Elon Musk and not to invest too much of their heart and soul in matters that are not theirs.

  • Questioner

    LIVE: Starship Static Fire Test | Ship 20

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC3tbUnEyfM

  • wayne

    Questioner-
    (i generally prefer John Insprucker for spacex color and/or that lady from Rocketlab)

    Live Starship Cam: Static Fire Test Watch
    from “Space Orbit” (->in Portuguese)
    https://youtu.be/Btv2I1i1V-w

  • As the old HP ads declared, when performance must be measured by results …

    Elon Musk, like Donald Trump, produces results that put this nation in a better place.

    Their respective competitors, not so much. They are more concerned with their inflated, busybody egos and their investment in elite status than they are in results that advance the human condition. Their placeholding, contrasted with the advancements of those who dissent from their One True Way as Musk and Trump have, makes the latter remarkable to the point of a fan base growing around such dissenters.

    That being said, I approach both Musk and Trump with the same attitude as Johnny Rico’s superiors in the cinematic Starship Troopers extended to Johnny:

    “You have the job, until you’re killed or I find someone better.”

    I have no problem with honest competitors taking their place on the basis of results. I DO have a problem when government busybodies put their thumb on that scale.

  • Questioner

    Seriously damaged Falcon 9 first stage comes home in this minute

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC3tbUnEyfM

  • BigFire

    re: David Eastman
    SpaceX have already done that once before. Originally Falcon 1 was supposed to be launch from Vandenberg AFB. However, USAF have a higher priority customer in ULA’s Delta IV Heavy, and they kept on messing up Falcon 1’s tests as well as launch. Finally they decamped for Kwajalein Atoll where they did 5 launches, succeeding in their 4th launch, and sending up 1 paying customer in their final launch before switching over to Falcon 9.

  • George

    Completely political. This is nothing but payback for Musk criticizing Democrats.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Last I heard out of Musk he was downplaying the priority of the Deimos and Phobos offshore platforms. I said then this was not a good idea. I’m saying it again!

  • Star Bird

    They need new faces in the FAA then the Turkeys running it today the Eagle cant get Airborne with them running it all

  • Larry

    Nothing and no one is sacred in the marketplace.

    True, but this is not the marketplace speaking, but the dead hand of government bureaucracy just “coincidentally” doing what SpaceX competitors would love for them to do.

  • Stephen Sharer

    Makes Atlas Shrugged even more relevant then ever.

  • Icepilot

    Elon has a voice. He’ll use it. TX also has a voice.
    Anyone with two brain cells to rub together should recognize the national strategic defense implications of SpaceX’s efforts. And economic, scientific & spiritual impacts of low cost access to Space.
    Finally, SpaceX has many friends, of all ages, races, creeds & religions, around the World.
    The bureaucratic slugs may delay & complicate, but they won’t stop SpaceX.

  • Questioner

    Elon Musk: SpaceX, Mars, Tesla Autopilot, Self-Driving, Robotics, and AI | Lex Fridman Podcast #252

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxREm3s1scA

    Lex Fridman:
    Here are the timestamps. To support this podcast, check out our sponsors below.
    0:00 – Introduction
    0:07 – Elon singing
    0:55 – SpaceX human spaceflight
    7:40 – Starship
    16:16 – Quitting is not in my nature
    17:51 – Thinking process
    27:25 – Humans on Mars
    32:55 – Colonizing Mars
    36:41 – Wormholes
    41:19 – Forms of government on Mars
    48:22 – Smart contracts
    49:52 – Dogecoin
    51:24 – Cryptocurrency and Money
    57:33 – Bitcoin vs Dogecoin
    1:00:16 – Satoshi Nakamoto
    1:02:38 – Tesla Autopilot
    1:05:44 – Tesla Self-Driving
    1:17:48 – Neural networks
    1:26:44 – When will Tesla solve self-driving?
    1:28:48 – Tesla FSD v11
    1:36:21 – Tesla Bot
    1:47:01 – History
    1:54:52 – Putin
    2:00:32 – Meme Review
    2:14:58 – Stand-up comedy
    2:16:31 – Rick and Morty
    2:18:10 – Advice for young people
    2:26:08 – Love
    2:29:01 – Meaning of life

  • Steve Richter

    “… Elon Musk: SpaceX, Mars, Tesla Autopilot, Self-Driving, Robotics, and AI | Lex Fridman Podcast #252 …”

    were all the interesting, topical questions off limits? Or is Lex kind of clueless? Ask Elon who he has talked to in the Biden admin, in NASA, in the Space Force regarding the Biden block on test launches from Boca Chica. Ask him directly when he expects to resume testing. Does he consider relocating to another country? Ask Elon if he has noticed that no one of prominence in the space exploration community has spoken up in favor of telling the FAA to get lost. Starting with none of the fearless retired astronauts. What does Mark Kelly have to say?

    An engineering question I would like asked is if Starship could be built to be 1/3 the size. Launch it on a Falcon 9. I guess I understand the economies of scale. And I know I have asked this question here before. Just in terms of accomplishing reuse of the 2nd stage, would a mini starship work as a reusable 2nd stage?

  • In mid 2021 I was so proud of Elon Musk and America. The Starship was evolving at a furious rate. He kept crashing prototypes. He kept learning. Elon Musk’s wealth in Starship consists of things nobody else knows. Nobody else can know, for they have not done the lessons. Some we all know. The skydiver reentry, for one. There are millions of little things that are not obvious.

    I cannot bet on America now.

    When the Qeng Ho fleet wasn’t instantly successful, the Emperor could say no. There was no appeal. The Ming empire stagnated.

    When the Italians, the English, and the French said no, nothing could stop the Portuguese and the Spanish from saying yes.

    Elon Musk wanted to launch months ago. Now NOAA can say no. The EPA can say no. The FAA can say no. For all I know the IHS and the Forest service can say no. There is nobody who can say yes. Most importantly, We Have No Idea WHO Says No. There is no accountability. ITAR certainly says no.
    Now they say it will be months more. We have no idea who to picket or deride.

    Our civilization may die thus, tied down by a million little ropes.

  • Steve Richter

    “… We have no idea who to picket or deride. …”

    Start with our own people. Trump was terrific with Elon and cleared the way for SpaceX and Tesla to do great things. Trump is staying active in politics, leaving it open to run in 2024. This is a perfect issue for him to go head to head against Biden. Yet, silence.

    People in the state government of Texas should at least be filing lawsuits against the Feds, make a states rights case in regard to having equal say over land use. Also sue them for the lost business and prestige due to arbitrary decisions by Feds to shutdown a cutting edge space launch facility

    Where is the WSJ editorial page? Too busy denouncing Jan 6 protesters?

    The Generals had no hesitation to go after Trump. Why is the Space Force commander not commenting that year long delays in developing reusable heavy lift capability is detrimental to national security?

  • Questioner

    Steve Richter:

    You shouldn’t look too closely at issues with the FAA. I think there are more technical issues with Starship development than the public thinks at the moment. So in the end, the FAA delay could prove useful to Elon Musk as it distracts from his troubles. I admit I am speculating a little here, but not entirely unfounded.

  • Edward

    Questioner wrote: “One should not complain about the influence of the bureaucracy and the state when, like Elon Musk, one has received so much … crucial government contracts for SpaceX,

    Look at that. Helping the government do more for less cost is a bad thing to the anti-Muskers. The fanboys may get too excited about SpaceX successes, but the anti-fans are equally absurd. The anti-Muskers are so fanatical that success becomes a bad thing.

    Of course, only SpaceX’s government contracts are bad. ULA, Boeing, Rocketdyne, and others can have all the government contracts that they want, and they are good. Only SpaceX is bad.

  • Questioner

    Edward:

    I think anyone as incredibly rich and powerful as Elon Musk has to endure from time to time to be pissed off by one or the other of us little, completely insignificant runts. That’s why I’m linking this video here. Maybe someone can give a qualified comment on this.

    Can we rule out, despite what he has already achieved, that Elon Musk is one of the most skillful con men in history? In any case, his pseudo-philosophical and pseudo-moral chatter annoys me.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkix4UzEbjU

    “Why I Hate Elon Musk”

  • Questioner

    Interesting stuff! I’ve not yet seen from this point of view.

    OPEN LETTER TO THE FAA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bdkcoiFaN0

  • Edward

    Questioner,
    Well, that’s it, then. One man who hates Musk — and tells us that his story is lies — confirms that government contracts are evil. So long as they are contracts with companies owned by Musk, that is. All others are OK.

    You asked: “Can we rule out, despite what he has already achieved, that Elon Musk is one of the most skillful con men in history?

    Considering that his companies have been successes and that you failed to present any real evidence of any con, yes. We can rule that out. The con seems to be coming from your annoyance at his personality and your linked, hateful YouTube. Someone who hates Musk is less reliable than a fanboy. Virgin Galactic has better evidence of a con, but that may only be poor engineering and business decisions.

  • Questioner

    Eduard:

    Nonsense, I don’t hate Elon Musk. You just adore him! I try to take a neutral point of view.

    I don’t have to prove anything to you, by the way. I would like to encourage you and others here to reflect and do your own research. There is a lot to criticize about Elon Musk and the way he has sold himself in the media. Much is untrue, for example we are told about his beginning and his ascent. His manipulation of the public is also unbearable. If investigative journalism existed today, there would be a rich field of investigation and detection.

    You write: His companies are successful! How do you know? Success here can only mean generating good profits in the long term. This evidence has not been provided for either Tesla or SpaceX. Most of his other ideas and attempts are technically impossible or conceptually utter nonsense. Here’s a selection: Las Vegas Loop, Hyperloop, Boring Company, Solar Roaf (sold to Tesla, litigation pending), Starship Point-to-Point Transport, and more.

  • Questioner

    Edward,

    I am really amazed that this idea of plastic roadways did not come from Elon Musk. It would go very well with his collection of other product ideas. But who knows, maybe Elon will be behind it in the end?

    Plastic Roadways

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj_FZduqblo

  • Edward

    Questioner,
    You wrote: “I don’t hate Elon Musk. You just adore him! I try to take a neutral point of view.

    Yes, you do. No, I don’t. And no, you failed in this endeavor.

    You oppose Musk in your writings, with few or no affirmations. You link to videos of hatred toward Musk and interviews of people who are wrong about him, but no links of admiration. This is one-sided thinking, on your part.

    I appreciate his ability to do what others have feared to try and his vision for engineering, business, and space exploration. I understand his limits and those of SpaceX. While others talk of Musk’s accomplishments, I talk of SpaceX’s accomplishments. Musk may be in charge, but I suspect that most of what goes on comes from other people’s ideas, and Musk only chooses which ideas to run with. This is good leadership, but it is not a superpower. It is also good leadership to take the blame when things do not pan out rather than blame the engineers whose ideas were abandoned. Again, not a superpower.

    Bezos most likely built Amazon in the same way. Now that he is focusing on Blue Origin, I expect things to improve there, too.

    Beck also has a well run company, and it is making its own version of a unique rocket. I appreciate Beck’s abilities, too. It is just that people talk more about SpaceX — and talk about Musk as though he were the company. As I have pointed out before, SpaceX is much more open about their work mainly because they have large rockets on two small sites, making it easy for people to watch what is happening and to report on it. Other companies have their equipment and flight hardware hidden indoors or behind buildings, so reports are not as frequent, since they mostly come from company press releases or interviews with company officials.

    I am disappointed that with my continual mention of the other companies that are doing unique things or great things in space that there are people who misinterpret my comments as adoration for one person rather than as appreciation for the many people and companies that are making this decade so exciting.

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