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.

German startup rocket company raises $75 million

Capitalism in space: The German startup rocket company Isar Aerospace announced today that it has raised $75 million, bringing the total in private investment capital it has obtained to $180 million.

The initial funding had funded construction of their Spectrum smallsat rocket. This new funding the company says will be used to expand their manufacturing and to begin work on making their rocket reusable.

Spectrum, the rocket Isar is developing, is a two-stage vehicle designed to place up to 1,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The vehicle is powered by Aquila engines that the company is also building.

Guillen said the company is preparing to start tests of the full Aquila engine soon on a test stand in Kiruna, Sweden. Isar is also working on a launch site in Norway, having signed an agreement in April with Andøya Space for exclusive use of a pad at a new site under development by the state-owned launch site operator.

A first launch of Spectrum from Andøya is expected in the second half of 2022, she said. The company expects to conduct three to four launches in 2023, with a long-term goal of about 10 launches per year. While Andøya is well-suited for launches to sun-synchronous orbits, Isar is considering alternative launch sites, such as French Guiana, for missions to lower inclination orbits.

Isar is one of three German smallstat rocket company startups, and appears from all accounts to be ahead of the other two, Rocket Factory Augsburg and HyImpulse Technologies, in funding and development.

There is some long term historical context to these German rocket companies. Following World War II, Germany was forbidden to build such things, both legally and culturally, as rockets too closely resemble the V2 rocket used by Hitler to bomb Great Britain. Even when Germany joined the European Space Agency as a partner the rocket building was left mostly to the French and the Italians.

This has now changed, partly because the rockets are small, partly because Europe has been shifting to the capitalism model in its space industry, partly because the memories from World War II have faded, and partly because ESA’s subsized effort at Arianespace to build a new low-cost replacement for its Ariane 5 rocket has not been successful. The Ariane 6 costs too much, and is thus not garnering customers from within ESA.

I think it will be really great to start listing separate European private companies in my launch race updates. Doing so will only emphasize the global acceleration of the competition to get into space.


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  • Col Beausabre

    Just to be precise, the Germans also used their A-4/V2 missiles against the Allies principle port in Western Europe, Antwerp. Here’s the details of the targets for each launch

    Belgium, 1664: Antwerp (1610), Liège (27), Hasselt (13), Tournai (9), Mons (3), Diest (2)
    United Kingdom, 1,402: London (1,358), Norwich (43),[13]:289 Ipswich (1)
    France, 76: Lille (25), Paris (22), Tourcoing (19), Arras (6), Cambrai (4)
    Netherlands, 19: Maastricht (19)
    Germany, 11: Remagen (11)

    .BTW, the V2, while a technical tour de force, like all ballistic missiles prior to the miniaturization of nuclear weapons in the mid-1950’s allowing their installation on missiles, made no economic or strategic sense. The Germans threw away the equivalent in industrial effort of a medium bomber to deliver a large bomb (2000 Kg of TNT) plus other valuable supplies with each firing

    “The V-2 consumed a third of Germany’s fuel alcohol production and major portions of other critical technologies: to distil the fuel alcohol for one V-2 launch required 30 tonnes of potatoes at a time when food was becoming scarce. Due to a lack of explosives, some warheads were simply filled in with concrete, using the kinetic energy alone for destruction, and sometimes the warhead contained photographic propaganda of German citizens who had died in Allied bombings.”

    They were Godawful inaccurate, with a CEP (circle within which 50 percent of the projectiles strike) of 4.5 km – which is why it made no sense as a strategic weapon with conventional explosives. The Germans boasted that they were hitting London, but forgot to mention they were talking about the County of London, not the City.

    But the Germans always had a fascination with “Terror Weapons” that would lead to the instant capitulation of the enemy – see the Paris Gun of the Kaiser War

    “As military weapons, the Paris Guns were not a great success: the payload was small, the barrel required frequent replacement, and the guns’ accuracy was good enough for only city-sized targets.”

    Sound familiar?

  • Col Beausabre:

    I knew that the V2 was inaccurate, but a 4.5km CEP is wildly inaccurate (unless you’re under it).

    If 1/3 of the nations production of potatoes was required for each launch, that’s a telling sign of how scarce food was. 30 tons is a truck load; not a lot.

    As is usual, an edifying comment.

  • Col Beausabre

    Blair, I think the V2 program absorbed 1/3 of Germany’s alcohol production, with each launch requiring the alcohol from 30 tonnes of potatoes. By the way, that’s an interesting way of measuring fuel efficiency, potatoes per kilometer. Hitler owed the potato crop to Frederick the Great – sometimes known in Germany as “the potato king” because of his enthusiasm for the tuber and the way it saved Prussia from starvation during the Seven Years War (started by an obscure colonial named George Washington in far away western Pennsylvania). It is still the custom to place a potato on Frederick’s grave when paying one’s respects

    Due to lack of accuracy and ineffective warhead, the Russian military originally resisted adopting the Scud-A missile. One general stated that if he could issue the alcohol needed for missiles to his troops, he could take any city on Earth!

  • wayne

    extensive V-2 rocket factoids can be found here–

  • Col Beausabre

    Fantastic as it might seem, I need to make a correction (I know, unbelievable! This is, after all, the Internet!!) the warhead size was 1000, not 2000 kg. I had the number 2000 in my head because 1000 kg is 2200 lbs. So, a medium sized bomb equivalent (a B-17 or B-24 could carry two of the US equivalent, the A/N M-56 on a 800 mile mission, three on a 400 mile one) but it qualifies as a Blockbuster, although not in the class of the British “Cookies” (4000, 8000, 12000 lbs High Capacity) or Tallboy (12000 lbs Medium Capacity) and Grand Slam (22000 lbs Medium Capacity). The last two could only be carried by the Lancaster B1 (Special),000-lb_HC

    I think I’d better shut up – this is drifting pretty far from the purpose of BtB – although apparently heavy WW2 bombing raids could be felt at the edge of space in the ionosphere and a thousand miles away (and if you got hit by a Triple Cookie what was left of you may have ended up in orbit!). See

    They are looking for citizen scientists to help analyze data to determine the lower boundary (if any) of this effect.

  • Edward

    Now we know why the Germans don’t talk a lot about rockets. With luck, their new companies will displace the topic that always comes up when discussing German rocketry.

  • wayne

    Audio From the Past
    WW-2 RAF Avro Lancaster Crew Radio

    “…”Watch Your height!”….”I’m watching everything!”

  • Ian C.

    For completeness, there was also OTRAG, that was crushed by various and changing political interests.

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