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.

Starliner has propellant leak during launch abort test

Capitalism in space: Boeing’s Starliner capsule experienced a propellant leak near the end of a launch abort test in late June.

The company said it conducted a hot-fire test of the launch-abort engines on an integrated service module at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico in June. The engines successfully ignited and ran for the full duration, but during engine shutdown an anomaly occurred that resulted in a propellant leak. “We have been conducting a thorough investigation with assistance from our NASA and industry partners,” the statement said. “We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action.”

The capsule being tested is an engineering model, not one that is intended to fly. Boeing also has said that “they believe there is an operational fix to the problem rather than a need to significantly rework the Starliner spacecraft itself.”

This incident however is certain to delay Boeing’s crew launch schedule, especially considering NASA’s own timidity about the privately built space capsules. The agency will insist on a complete review, no matter how long it takes, even if the company has pinpointed the problem already and has instituted corrections.

In a normal world, this event should not effect SpaceX’s schedule. I also expect however that the agency will use this event to slow SpaceX down again, demanding further reviews there as well.

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  • Kirk

    VP Pence is scheduled to announce crew assignments and launch dates for the first Commercial Crew flights on 3 August, less than two weeks from now. (This was to be prior to his attending the launch of the Parker Solar probe in the early AM of 4 August, but that launch has slipped to 6 August, so his visit and announcements may follow suit.)

    Hopefully we finally get some realistic launch date estimates. At the SpX/CRS-15 pre-launch press conference, ISS program manager Kirk Shireman made it clear that their August – December 2018 dates (for all four test flights) were merely aspirational target dates for vehicle readiness set by Boeing and SpaceX, that they were highly ambitious, and when the vehicles finally did become available, their launch dates will have to be integrated with the station’s other activities.

  • Kirk

    I just heard (via a commenter on Parabolic Arc) that VP Pence’s announcement is still on for 3 August, but has moved from KSC in FL to JSC in TX, and that the Parker Solar Probe launch is now NET mid August.

  • Kirk

    Parabolic Arc: NASA to Announce Commercial Crew Assignments on Aug. 3

    The announcement will still be at JSC, Houston and will be presided over by Administrator Bridenstine.

  • Kirk

    Some more details from Irene Klotz yesterday:

    “Boeing Starliner launch abort motor leak traced to faulty valves. Four of 8 stuck open following 1.5-sec hot-fire of service module test article June 2. While repair underway, Boeing moving ahead w/ unmanned flight test in 5-6 mos, then launch abort & crew flight tests mid-2019”

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