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.

NASA awards $370 million to 14 companies to develop new space capabilities

Capitalism in space: NASA yesterday issued fifteen development contracts to fourteen private space companies, totaling $370 million, to help them develop a variety of new space capabilities.

The funding is spread across 15 contracts to 14 different companies, including SpaceX, Astrobotic, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance and Intuitive Machines.

Nearly 70% of the money is earmarked for the management of cryogenic fluids such as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. SpaceX, for example, will get $53 million for an in-space demonstration that will transfer 11 tons (10 metric tons) of liquid oxygen between tanks on one of its next-gen Starship vehicles.

What makes these contracts different from past NASA development contracts is fundamental. First, the design work comes from the companies, not NASA. Therefore products will be designed with the company’s needs in mind, not the government’s, and will also likely be designed faster and more efficiently.

Second, the companies will own what they build, and will be able to sell or use it however they wish. SpaceX for example wants this capability to give Starship the ability to leave Earth orbit, for its own commercial flights.


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  • Ray Van Dune

    OT, sorry, but timely… what’s going on with Falcon 9? We have two F9 launches, using new boosters I believe, that are being delayed. The recent last-minute abort of a USSF GPS launch was apparently caused by an anomalous reading from a Merlin engine turbopump, and has yet to be rescheduled, at least there is no mention of such on the SpaceX website. An abundance of caution seems to have pushed back the next Crew Dragon launch from October 31 to sometime in November. Again, nothing on And could it be significant that the recent successful StarLink launch used a “flight-proven” booster?

    So we have the potential of 18 (or 20) new Merlins with some unspecified turbopump problem, holding up two big missions, but I haven’t heard anything about it in the media (I don’t do Facebook or Twitter). Has anyone else? This highlights a perhaps under-appreciated consequence of using 9/10-engined boosters… if you find a flaw, it is liable to impact a lot of engines all at once! They are unlikely to have a bunch of turbopumps sitting on the shelf, and even if they did, how many hours does it take to tear down, inspect, and possibly replace and retest one?

    Imagine if they had two Falcon Heavy missions on hold?! “Yo, Hawthorn! I need 60 new pumps down here, stat!!”

  • Ray Van Dune

    Ps. Of course, a Falcon Heavy would “only” have 28 pumps! So they would need 56 replacements, not 60.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Considering that the booster in question had previously been static fired, I think the odds of a bad sensor are appreciably higher than the odds of a bad turbopump. preburner. SpaceX will announce its findings before the rocket flies, but isn’t likely to say anything in the meantime.

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