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 video of Starliner pad abort test

Boeing has released a new video of the Starliner pad abort test on November 4th, showing the full flight.

I have embedded the footage below the fold. The one aspect of this test that I have as yet not seen any explanation for is the red cloud to the left of the capsule’s touch down spot. It surely looks like the kind of smoke one sees from the release of certain toxic fuels. It was also something that the live stream video focused on, suggesting the possibility that its existence was important and needed to be recorded for engineering reasons.

Regardless, the fact that any onboard astronauts would have been safely returned to Earth, based on this test, should mean Boeing’s abort system is functioning properly. They note that they have pinpointed the reason one parachute did not deploy (“attributed to the lack of a secure connection between the pilot chute and one of the main chutes”), a problem that is probably quite simple to fix. Hopefully that one failure will not cause any significant delays in their future flights, including the first manned flight next year.

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  • Diane Wilson

    The red cloud was almost certainly from the service module crashing near by. I think the original real-time broadcast did mention, before the test occurred, the service module would crash nearby, something that wouldn’t be an issue in a recovery at sea.

    But yeah, hypergolics. No question.

  • Questioner

    This red cloud is nitrogen tretroxide (N2O4) vapor , the toxic and hazardous oxidizer used in service module propulsion system propellant combination.

  • Scott M.

    Diane, to add onto your comment…

    The hosts of the livestream also mentioned that we might see a fire from the service module crashing and releasing its fuel. I guess the hypergolics didn’t mix enough to cause that, but we did get a nice Orange Cloud of Doom.

    If the parachute foul-up was just a badly-connected line, that’s great news. I was worried that ‘leftover’ hypergolics from the abort motors firing had attacked the ‘chute lines.

  • Scott M.

    Well now I’m less sanguine about the parachute failure. Seems like they were able to tell that a pin wasn’t in place thanks to a photo taken before closing up the vehicle. And yet they didn’t find the problem because of a protective shroud over the pin assembly?

    IANARE (I Am Not A Rocket Engineer), but this seems like amateur hour. I thought Boeing was supposed to be the seasoned adult as compared with the SpaceX whippersnapper?

  • Terry

    Boeing is amateur hour. They act that the parachute not deploying is no big deal. Someone didn’t do their job. If crew had been on board, sorry, someone didn’t do their job. Sounds like NASA and the two lost shuttles. They didn’t think their problems were that serious to delay launches and make the engineers fix the defects. Peoples lives are at stake.

  • Andi

    I think I found the problem! From the article Scott linked to:

    “‘We’ll spend a week and a half and pour through’ that data, he said.”

    Depending on what they intend to pour through the data (hopefully nothing stronger than coffee), I don’t think they’ll be too successful.

    … or perhaps they just need a better editor.

  • Questioner

    Correction: dinitrogen tretroxide (N2O4)

    It is a shame that no safe, non-toxic and long time storable replacement for it was found after 50 years of research on this topic. This task seems to be more difficult as developing resusable rockets.

  • pzatchok

    They looked directly at the problem.
    They even took a picture of the problem.

    They never reviewed the pictures with the parachute team before launch.

    To busy? Day off?

  • wayne

    An oldy but a goody….

    “Toxic Propellant Hazards In Rocketry”
    1966 NASA
    “Hypergolic fuels include hydrazine and its derivatives including; mono methyl hydrazine (MMH), unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH), and Aerozine 50, which is an equal mixture of NA and UDMH.”

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