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.

New Shepard completes another test flight

Capitalism in space: Blue Origin today successfully completed its sixth unmanned test flight (a new record) of its third New Shepard reusable suborbital spacecraft, the twelfth flight total and the ninth to carry commercial payloads.

The capsule reached an altitude of about 342,000 feet elevation.

Blue Origin’s success here is commendable. I just wish their launch pace was faster. At the pace they are setting I am beginning to think that SpaceX will be flying people to the Moon on Starship before Blue Origin flies its first commercial tourist suborbital flight.

I have embedded the video of the flight below the fold.

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  • Diane Wilson

    BO will probably put humans on New Shepard in 2020, but they will be BO employees only. Paying customers probably won’t happen until 2021.

    The real question is New Glenn. I’d be willing to bet that Starship has a successful uncrewed lunar landing before New Glenn makes it to orbit. Crewed Starship landing on the moon won’t happen until there are successful crewed orbital Starships, and there is an uncrewed landing on the moon, followed by a successful return to Earth of that lunar landing Starship.

  • mike shupp

    Well, a billion bucks per year, obtained by selling Amazon stock, just doesn’t buy as much R&D work as it did in former days. I think Bezos’ philosophy is to progress by moving forward slowly, with a limited workforce, but never step back. Quite a bit different from Musk’s approach of trying out new ideas quickly and dropping many, it strikes me, but both guys seem to have found development strategies that work.

  • Diane Wilson

    BO’s main R&D effort has to be getting the BE-4 engine and New Glenn rocket into production. New Shepard is a distraction and a drain on resources at this point. There’s nothing else they can learn about reuse and launch operations on New Shepard. They haven’t taken any orders for rides on New Shepard. Why is New Shepard still operating?

  • Mike,

    Yeah. Blue’s strategy is to have nearly unlimited money. It’s hard to fail when you have really, really deep pockets. Unfortunately others cannot learn from Blue’s strategy.

  • Edward

    mike shupp wrote: “Quite a bit different from Musk’s approach of trying out new ideas quickly and dropping many, it strikes me, but both guys seem to have found development strategies that work.

    It strikes me that Musk’s approach successfully brings products to market faster and with less development cost. This allows Musk’s SpaceX to generate revenues sooner with a faster product cycle and to pay for future product development without having to sell billions of dollars of ownership of his companies.

    In the time that SpaceX has developed the Merlin engine, Falcon 9 orbital launch vehicle, Dragon unmanned orbital and reentry spacecraft, and Falcon Heavy orbital launch vehicle for revenue service, Blue Origin has only developed the BE3 engine, New Shepard sounding rocket, and New Shepard unmanned suborbital spacecraft. SpaceX is ahead both in the number and capabilities of developed products and in revenue generation.
    Blue Origin may think that “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” but the empirical evidence of SpaceX demonstrates otherwise. Slow is not fast, no matter how much “smooth” you put between them.

    Diane Wilson asked: “Why is New Shepard still operating?

    New Shepard should be a revenue operation. If a commercial company is going to spend two decades to develop an engine, a rocket, and a spacecraft then it should make money on them. This is the main idea behind a commercial operation and capitalism in space.

    As the two hosts informed us in the video, Blue Origin is flying unmanned payloads, sometimes scientific and sometimes not so scientific. These generate some income. I hope that they pay for the flights. Now, if only the cadence of these flights would increase, and if passenger service would begin, then perhaps Bezos could start to recoup the cost of two decades of New Shepard’s development.

  • pzatchok

    This ship ‘should’ have been carrying passengers for quite a while already.

    Its not like life support is is that big a factor. How ling do they need air for? 2 hours at best and most of that is on the ground.

    They should know by now if it can hold pressure for the whole flight.

    No there is a business aspect we are all overlooking here. Either he can not get insurance at a reasonable price or the ride just stinks. To shaky and noisy for those fancy pants rich folk who would be able to afford a ride.

  • Andi

    pzatchok, somehow I think it’s the latter – IIRC in the video they said that the acceleration reached 3g on the way up and 5g on the way down. Can’t be very pleasant.

  • Mark H

    I find the announcer annoying actually but the video is good. It doesn’t appear that there is any interval upgrade in technology so I’m not sure what these flights are about. Interesting but pales in comparison to watching a routine Falcon 9 launch.

  • pzatchok

    3g and 5g is roller coaster territory.

    I can see the 3g on lift off being worse because its a sustained 3g’s during lift off. With the 5g’s just being the final deceleration before landing. And that can be lessened by making several deceleration pulses during the landing.

  • Questioner

    pzatchok and Wayne:

    This film shows the ultimate version of the American dream! I like it. What do both of you think: Would Elon Musk like that movie?


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