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.

Rocket Lab launch on May 15 will attempt a second ocean recovery of 1st stage

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab’s next planned launch on May 15th will attempt a repeat of the ocean recovery of their Electron rocket’s 1st stage, as they did after a November 2020 launch.

The goal of such work is to help transition the two-stage Electron from an expendable vehicle, as it was originally designed, to a rocket with a reusable first stage. And inspection of the recovered booster from “Return to Sender” suggests that this vision is no pipe dream. “We are more kind of bullish on this than ever before,” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said during a teleconference with reporters on Tuesday (May 11). “We reentered on a very aggressive corridor, we had no upgraded heat shield, and we still got [the booster] back in remarkable condition.”

Indeed, some parts of that rocket will fly again; the propellant pressurization system from the “Return to Sender” first stage has been incorporated into the “Running Out of Toes” Electron [launching May 15th], Beck said. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words are quite remarkable. As far as I know, SpaceX never reused any part of a Falcon 9 first stage that was recovered in the ocean.

Rocket Lab also hopes to reduce any damage further by using new equipment on their ship for getting the stage out of the water. In addition, they have added heat shielding to the stage that should also reduce damage during its fall back to Earth.

Finally, on the next flight or so they will test something they are calling a “decelerator,” designed to slow the stage down during that fall. They are not saying what this decelerator is, which suggests it is some form of new engineering.

If all goes right, they hope to make the first snatch by helicopter of a first stage before it hits the ocean sometime next year.


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  • mkent

    As far as I know, SpaceX never reused any part of a Falcon 9 first stage that was recovered in the ocean.

    I thought that SpaceX did re-use some vehicle components before they accomplished the first full-stage re-use, but I can’t point to anything right now to back up my perhaps faulty memory.

    But, regardless, I think by focusing so much on re-use you’re missing the big advance of this mission: Rocket Lab is debuting their Sylda-like payload adapter that allows them to stack two non-cooperative payloads under their payload shroud. That’s how they’re able to deploy two Black Sky satellites on a single launch.

    Rocket Lab is starting to be able to do the often overlooked little things that will make them a full-service launch provider. It’s not just about getting dead mass to a minimal orbit. They’re becoming more impressive with every launch.

  • Jeff Wright

    With something small it is easier to hose off. Redstone was one of the simplest rockets to handle. Maybe X ray afterwards. HYPACC is something to look at perhaps.

  • @mkent: an excellent, and as noted, often overlooked, point. As was repeated in business school: ‘Compete on capability (value), not price. Someone can always do it more cheaply.’

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