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 to refly Starship prototype #15 next?

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has rolled Starship prototype #15 to the launchpad in an apparent bid to immediately send it on its second flight, only two weeks after its first successfully 30,000 foot flight.

While SpaceX has yet to actually install Starship SN15 on Mount B, the prototype has been attached to a crane and said installation is imminent – possibly just waiting for winds to die down. As of publishing, SpaceX has removed SN15’s six ‘used’ landing legs but hasn’t replaced them – a necessary step before the Starship can fly again.

…It’s worth noting that even after SpaceX reinstalls Starship SN15 on a launch mount, there’s no guarantee that the prototype will fly again. Before any reflight, SpaceX will almost certainly put the rocket through at least one additional tank proof test and static fire its Raptor engines. Issues or damage that escaped initial post-flight inspections could easily arise during that process and it’s more likely than not that one or more of SN15’s three Raptors will be removed for detailed inspection or replaced outright.

If this prototype does fly next, the next question will be how high and how far. My guess would be that they will fly it to a much higher altitude to further refine the spacecraft’s flight capabilities on return. It makes no sense to simply repeat the last flight. Now is the time to push the design again, even if it means the loss of the prototype.

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8 comments

  • geoffc

    As noted in the article, the key indicator of reflight, would be new set of legs arriving to be installed. Good news is they are sort of big, and easy to spot, by all the tank watchers out there.

    However, they might simply be mounting it on the stand, since with its hold downs, it is safer to leave there, inspect, possibly remove the Raptors than back at the build site.

    Only time will tell, or a good leak from an employee.

    The issue wiith flying higher, is the FAA permitting. They are limited to 10K by the permit, and changing that might be more time consuming than they want.

    On the other hand, they will need to change that permit eventually, so might as well start now…

  • Herman D Hurt

    Gotta love the SpaceX team and Musk’s drive for excellence no matter the number of RUDs in order get us back in space, moon, Mars, etc.
    If were as bold…(I know, right?!?!) we would have an established moon base and lunar industrial parks! But, it is NASA. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  • Herman D Hurt

    Gotta love the SpaceX team and Musk’s drive for excellence no matter the number of RUDs in order get us back in space, moon, Mars, etc.
    If NASA were as bold…(I know, right?!?!) we would have an established moon base and lunar industrial parks! But, it is NASA. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  • Skunk Bucket

    Do we know just how high a Starship can climb? (This would be assuming it took off with as much propellent as its three engines could lift, then kept all three lit – within any gee limit / max Q limit – until fuel in the main tanks ran out.)

  • Mike Borgelt

    Skunk Bucket, I think it will do SSTO with no payload or fuel for return.

  • Jeff Wright

    Elon has filed an orbital flight as per Next Big Future…whatever that entails

  • pawn

    It does make some sense in repeating the flight if SpaceX was not satisfied that SN15 operated as intended. They have very little data to establish what performance envelopes exist.

    The data that they do have may show some irregularities and to think that it landed without exploding makes it a “success” is a very limited viewpoint. The idea that they need to “freeze” their code or configuration because it worked once doesn’t hold up very well.

    Every bit of data at this point is valuable.

  • Edward

    pawn noted: “The data that they do have may show some irregularities and to think that it landed without exploding makes it a “success” is a very limited viewpoint.

    True. It shows that it can be done, but it does not show that it has been done well. As with the Falcons, SpaceX will likely be refining the design, methods, and operations for many flights. The word is that orbital operations could cost as little as $2 million, so once SpaceX starts to orbit its test units, they could fly them often, at a high cadence, in order to improve Starship at relatively low cost.

    Improving reliability will help make Starship safe for human transport, the real goal of the project.

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