Leaving Earth cover

In 2019 I obtained from my former publisher the last 30 copies of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. I sold about half of these, and with only a handful left in stock I have raised the price. To get your own autographed copy of this rare collector's item please send a $75 check (includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

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

I will likely raise the price again when only ten books are left, so buy them now at this price while you still can!

 
Also available as an inexpensive ebook!
 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 

Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.


"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Rocket Lab provides detailed update on successful recovery of first stage after splashdown

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab has now provided a detailed update on the company’s first successful recovery of the first stage of their Electron rocket from the ocean on November 19, 2020.

Much of the press release reiterates what the company CEO Peter Beck said on November 24th, but in much better engineering detail. Key finding:

The stage held up remarkably well – not bad after experiencing the trip to space and back in just 13 minutes. The carbon composite structure was completely intact. As expected, the heatshield on the base of the stage suffered some heat damage during re-entry. It was never designed for this load case, but before we strengthen the heat shield we wanted to see just how much heat it could take unchanged. With a wealth of data on this now, our team has already started working on upgrades for future recovery missions.

They also intend to re-fly some components from that stage. I have embedded below the fold their footage taken during from the inside of the first stage during its splashdown.

The next recovery attempt in early ’21 will also splash down in the ocean. Before they attempt a helicopter snatch from the air they want gather more data.

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.
 

4 comments

  • David Eastman

    I know that the SpaceX Falcon 9 has a somewhat unconventional balance between the booster and upper stage, with the upper stage being larger than usual so that the staging occurs earlier in the flight, making the booster recovery easier. I wonder if the same is true for the Electron, or if they’ve succeeded in recovering a booster from a higher and faster point in the trajectory.

  • Brad

    David,

    I do think it is an interesting coincidence that the Falcon 9 and the Electron rockets share a similar engine arrangement, with 9 engines in the 1st stage, and one vacuum optimized engine in the 2nd stage! So it’s no surprise the burn time for the first stages are also similar, 152 seconds for the Electron and 180 seconds for the Falcon 9 (according to Spaceflight101 website).

    That burn time for the Falcon 9 may be a little deceiving, since any recovery of the first stage requires eating into the burn time by a significant margin.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I’ve not heard it mentioned before, but it seems as though SpaceX discovered a happy synergy that others overlooked, probably because they weren’t searching for it… that the essential system to reverse the booster’s trajectory and arrest its descent, the main engines, are already well-engineered for the job, being able to resist intense heating and very high forces by virtue of their core function, propulsion of a million-pound vehicle to hypersonic speeds!

    Of course, the next logical step was to eliminate the “reverse the booster’s trajectory” part, by stationing a landing pad at sea along the path the booster would take anyway, were it being thrown away like everyone else’s are! Barges are a lot easier to build than rockets!

    I wonder if even the barge could be eliminated by landing on a convenient island? Bermuda? Someplace in the Windward chain? How to get it back? An AN-225 might do it, or just plug in a nosecone and fly it back?

  • Edward

    Ray Van Dune,
    You wrote: “… that the essential system to reverse the booster’s trajectory and arrest its descent, the main engines, are already well-engineered for the job, being able to resist intense heating and very high forces by virtue of their core function, propulsion of a million-pound vehicle to hypersonic speeds!

    Please do consider the other systems that are not already subjected to the same (external) heating and pressure during launch. There is the plumbing, for instance. Even the engines depend upon some amount of cooling during launch, which they don’t get during reentry. The Merlins and Raptors would have had to have been designed with these extra problems in mind. Even Rocket Lab’s engine compartment would have been designed with these considerations. The engines, fuel tank dome, and other items may be a bit heavier than they could have been otherwise, but reusability always required tradeoffs that one-and-done didn’t need. Probably a reason why many engineers believed that reusability was impractical.

    I wonder if even the barge could be eliminated by landing on a convenient island?

    Although this sounds good, the reality is a bit different. The flights generally do not go in the direction of islands. Most will fly due east, some seem to be going south (where there may be some islands available, maybe), and ISS missions go toward the north.

    Return by barge, from an island landing, is the most likely method, as airplanes are usually only cost effective in delivering payloads to the launch site in a timely manner. Equipment returning from the launch site generally takes the slow but cheap routes, as time is no longer of the essence.

    Sorry about your dream of seeing an AN-225 carrying a Falcon booster. That would have been a good sight and picture.

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