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 successfully launches commercial radio satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched a new commercial radio satellite for Siruis.

The first stage was making its seventh flight, the fifth in 2020. It successfully landed on the drone ship. The fairings were also both previously flown.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

33 China
24 SpaceX
13 Russia
5 Rocket Lab
5 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. now leads China 38 to 33 in the national rankings. The U.S. has also completed the most launches in a single year since 1968. Unlike 1968, all the launches this year were flown by private companies, either for commercial customers or for the government, with rockets owned by the companies. In 1968 almost all the launches were for the government, and the rockets were controlled by the government, even if built by private companies.

Note that this very successful year occurred during a year when many businesses were forced to shutdown due to the Wuhan panic. It appears many rocket companies decided this was not a reason to cease operations.


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  • Dick Eagleson

    It still lacks two and a half weeks of being year’s end so final tallies in any launch category are not yet able to be precise. Still, 2020 is noteworthy in one more way than seeing the most U.S.-flagged launches since Apollo days; it is the first year in which SpaceX has launched suborbitally more times than Blue Origin.

    Notice was initially served in 2019 when Blue’s New Shepard flew three times but SpaceX managed two very low-altitude flights of Starhopper.

    This year, New Shepard has flown only once, though there may be a second such flight before year’s end. But SpaceX has flown four suborbital missions this year. The first was the Crew Dragon 2 In-Flight Abort test. Since then, SpaceX has launched, suborbitally, three more times from Boca Chica, TX using Starship prototypes SN5, SN6 and SN8, respectively. If the Boca Chica “body shop” can bump the recently incurred dents out of SN9 in time, there is at least a slim chance it, too, can take to the air before year’s end – we shall soon enough know.

    2021 seems all but certain to be another such year in SpaceX-vs-Blue sub-orbital launching. The pace of Starship and Super Heavy prototype launches will ramp up well into the two-digit numbers over the course of 2021 with at least a few of them all but certain to cross the Karman Line. New Shepard will, in all probability, start slowly and will likely spend the whole year in a stern chase of SpaceX even if New Shepard is officially declared to be operational at some point before next year’s end.

    Should that actually happen in 2021, Blue may get its suborbital crown back in 2022 as SpaceX’s SH-Starship development flights to orbit begin to surpass its suborbital total.

    Interesting times we live in.

  • wayne

    Oracle’s leaving California for Texas

  • Dick Eagleson wrote: “; . . it is the first year in which SpaceX has launched suborbitally more times than Blue Origin.” Oh, that’s a burn. And a good point.

    As I’ve said, we are in real horse race. It looks like the Four Horseman are winning, Would that it not be so, but I think there are major political reorganizations on the horizon.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Upon further consideration, I think 2020 may be the third year in which SpaceX has essayed more suborbital launches than Blue Origin. During 2012 and 2013 SpaceX was doing hop tests of its Grasshopper and F9R Dev 1 vehicles to work out low-speed F9 retropropulsive landing dynamics. I can’t be absolutely sure Blue didn’t beat SpaceX in either or both of those years given how secretive the company was in those days. Blue had certainly been running low-speed, low-altitude hop tests of various vehicles that were precursors to New Shepard starting in the mid-“oughts.” But there are no public records to consult for what Blue did, specifically, in 2012 and 2013.

    Anent the Four Horsemen, Death has certainly put in an appearance this year, but he’s more a hobbit on a pony than a big demon on a horse. Famine has been a no-show. The same for War, though perhaps his hoofbeats are faintly to be heard in the distance. Conquest has shown up, in the form of what looks now like an irretrievably criminal Democratic Party, but the ultimate success of his depredations is still very much in doubt, both nationally and at lesser scales. 2021 is going to be a pivotal year where Conquest is concerned.

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