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.

Relativity completes testing of rocket engine

Capitalism in space: The smallsate rocket company Relativity has successfully completed, ahead of schedule, the testing of its Aeon-1 rocket engine, and is now moving to completing design and construction of its Terran-1 rocket, tentatively scheduled for its first test flight in 2021.

The successful tests augur well for the ongoing development of the Terran 1 rocket, which represents a challenge as this rocket will now be larger than originally anticipated. In 2019, due to customer requests, Relativity resized its rocket to nearly double the available volume for payloads. It expanded the diameter of the fairing at the top of the rocket to 3 meters and height to 7 meters. While this is smaller than the fairing used in big rockets like the Falcon 9, in the class of “small satellite” launch vehicles it is quite large.

Relativity’s move to a larger fairing necessitated a more powerful engine with a gas generator cycle. The original Aeon engine had a thrust of 17,000 pounds at sea level, and the new version boosts the power considerably to 23,000 pounds. And now the company has been able to validate this larger, more powerful engine design.

The Terran 1 rocket, with a lift capacity of 1.25 tons to low Earth orbit, is powered by a first stage with nine Aeon engines. Success with the engine testing gives the company confidence that it can hit its target of launching the first Terran 1 rocket in 2021, said Zach Dunn, vice president of factory development. The next step is integrated stage testing, which will happen next year, followed by a launch from Space Launch Complex-16 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Right now it appears to me that in the race by American companies to join Rocket Lab in providing launch services for smaller satellites, Virgin Orbit and Astra are in the lead, having completed their first test flights, with Firefly and Relativity close behind.


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

One comment

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *