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.

Rocket Lab tests 1st stage capture using helicopters

Capitalism in space: In early March, prior to the shutdown of New Zealand due to the Wuhan panic, Rocket Lab successfully completed a test whereby one helicopter dropped a dummy first stage over the ocean, the stage’s parachutes released to slow it down, and then a second helicopter captured it and gently transported and deposited it safely on land.

This test was part of the company’s effort to recovery its first stages so they can be reused. Because of their small size and the difficulty of developing the software, they have decided that a vertical landing is not economical. This test however shows that capturing the stage by parachute is possible. The real trick will be getting the first stage back through the atmosphere to an expected target spot and be able to release its parachutes. Proving that part of the effort will have to wait until the panic is over and New Zealand releases its citizens from house arrest.

I have embedded video of the test below the fold.

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  • Col Beausaber

    I’ve been advocating mid-air retrieval – an established technology used by the USAF since the Fifties – for several years. If they could do it then, there’s no reason we can’t do it now. Hello, SpaceX, you can do this to recover fairings, etc using surplus C-130 or CH-53’s, no need for ships….. and

  • Dick Eagleson

    There would still very much be a need for ships as the fairing recoveries are done a long way at sea. So it wouldn’t be a matter of ships vs. helicopters but of ships only vs. ships and helicopters. Worse yet, the ships needed to host the helicopters would need to be appreciably larger than the ones now used to chase fairings.

    There is also a significant difference between the aerodynamics of a vertical cylinder under parachute and a horizontal payload fairing half under parachute. Rotor downwash is a comparatively minor disturbance to the former, but a major disturbance to the latter.

    SpaceX looked at helicopter recovery of fairing halves and rejected it – correctly, IMHO – for these reasons.

  • pzatchok

    The fairings are to large to be recovered by anything but a helicopter. But its far safer to just pull them out of the ocean.

    I am waiting until Space X changes the fairings a bit and puts directable parasailing parachutes on them. They will then be able to literally fly.

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