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.

More budget cuts expected for Roscosmos

According to one story in the Russian press today, the Russian space industry, run by Roscosmos, is expected to experience more budget cuts due to a shortage of funds.

The Russian federal space program might face cuts as the Roscosmos state corporation is likely to suffer funding shortages amounting to 150 billion rubles (almost $2.4 billion) in the next three years, a source in the industry told Sputnik.

“The shortages of budgetary funds planned for allocation to Roscosmos from the previous parameters for the next three years is about 150 billion rubles … the lack of funds has already become a reason of delays in the development of interplanetary projects, slowing down construction of the second stage of the Vostochny Cosmodrome and the development of new rocket and space equipment,” the source said.

The shortfall almost certainly comes from a lack of international launch customers, most of whom have shifted their business to SpaceX because of the quality control concerns in the Russian aerospace industry. Whether Russia can regain any of this business in the coming years will depend wholly on whether they can demonstrate some reliability in their launch cadence, something they have failed to do for the past five years.

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  • Edward

    On May 23, Robert linked to the following article, which has a chart in Figure 1 showing that from 2010 through 2012 Russia owned about half the commercial market, Europe (Arianespace) owned 1/3, and China and Sea Launch the remaining 1/6.

    The chart also shows that so far in 2018 Russia owns only 1/12 of the commercial market, SpaceX almost 2/3, and the rest (just over 1/4) to Arianespace. This is a dramatic change in less than a decade.

    Of course, there are other launches (military and civil), but they tend to be driven by political or national motives. Commercial launches tend to show how well a rocket or company performs (price, availability, quality/reliability). As space becomes more commercialized, these performance factors become more important, as they determine how quickly a company can get itself started or expanded in its niche.

    SpaceX has done well in its performance and seems to have found a way to develop rockets and spacecraft quickly without breaking the bank (11 years from founding to first commercial launch). Few others have managed to do this, Rocket Lab (12 years, if the next launch is successful as its first commercial launch) and Orbital Sciences (8 years) being the only companies that come to mind. Jordi Puig-Suari’s and Bob Twiggs’s cubesat concept is the satellite equivalent of fast and cheap, mainly due to standardization.

    So where did Russia go wrong?

    I would say that it was when they decided to get away from competition and entrepreneurship by consolidating its space industry under a central governmental control. Even Arianespace, which has a similar centralized-government-control problem, was able to make some adaptations to SpaceX’s competition.

    This latest Russian development is yet another example of capitalism in space, as it shows that a socialized space program fails just as does any socialized economic system, but a free market capitalist space company can excel due to competition and entrepreneurship.

  • Dick Eagleson

    This is at least the third major resource cutback for Russian space announced in as many years. It seems unlikely to be the last.

    Russia, as a whole, is in an irreversible demographic death spiral. A century hence, it will have a smaller population than present-day Germany or France.

    The effective death of its space program will come long before the formal demise of Russia as a nation-state, though. Russia’s once large commercial launch business is all but gone and, once ISS is shut down, its human space program will have no destination. Satellite launches for various organs of the Russian state will continue on existing rockets, but no new vehicles are going to appear. Russia’s space program will be limited to no more than maintenance of existing Earth-orbit constellations as soon as the mid-2020’s.

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