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.

SpaceX begins testing of launch procedures for Superheavy prototype #4

Capitalism in space: SpaceX began this week the testing of the fueling and launch procedures it will follow for launching the first orbital Superheavy, prototype #4, presently mounted on the orbital launchpad at Boca Chica.

On December 17th, SpaceX subjected Super Heavy B4 to a cryogenic proof test about twice as ambitious as B3’s, filling the booster maybe a sixth of the way with a few hundred tons of liquid nitrogen (LN2). What isn’t clear is if that test also raised the booster’s propellant tanks to flight pressures (6-8 bar or 90-115 psi). If Booster 4 did reach those pressures, the test is even more significant – partially proving that the rocket is ready for flight. On December 21st, SpaceX performed a similar series of cryogenic tests, again partially filling Booster 4 with about the same amount of liquid nitrogen but doing so two or three times in a row. Again, the Super Heavy survived the several-hour ordeal without any obvious issues. Still, a number of additional tests – some even more important – are still in front of SpaceX and Super Heavy B4.

The most obvious is simple enough: SpaceX needs to fully fill a Super Heavy booster for the first time. Depending on the storage situation, that process will likely begin by filling Booster 4 with about 2500 tons (5.5M lb) of liquid nitrogen (LN2) – about two-thirds full. If SpaceX also temporarily fills one of the orbital tank farm’s liquid oxygen (LOx) or methane (LCH4) tanks with nitrogen, it could fully load Booster 4 with around 3500 tons (7.7M lb) of nitrogen. At least according to SpaceX’s own website, that’s about the same weight as the propellant (3400t/7.5M lb) Super Heavy is designed to lift off with. If that full cryoproof goes well, SpaceX will then likely perform one or several wet dress rehearsals, ultimately filling Booster 4 with approximately 2900 tons (6.4M lb) of cryogenic oxygen and 500 tons (1.1M lb) of cryogenic methane.

At some point the company will need to not only fill the booster, it will need to do at least one static fire test of its 29 engines. If all goes well, SpaceX will then mount Starship on top, with the first orbital flight to follow. Musk has said they are aiming for a January launch, but no one should be surprised if it slips to February.


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