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.

Starliner launch scrubbed; no launch date yet set

For reasons that have not yet been revealed, ULA scrubbed today’s unmanned demo test flight of Boeing’s Starliner capsule just prior to launch, rescheduling the launch for tomorrow.

The launch tomorrow wiill occur at 12:57 am (Eastern).

UPDATE: It appears the scrub occurred because of a valve issue in the propulsion system of Boeing’s Starliner capsule.

“During pre-launch preparations for the uncrewed test flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, Boeing engineers monitoring the health and status of the vehicle detected unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system,” the company said in a statement. “The issue was initially detected during check outs following yesterday’s electrical storms in the region of Kennedy Space Center.”

…The propulsion system valves in question are inside the Starliner’s service module, which has an array of rocket thrusters designed to propel the spacecraft away from its launcher during an in-flight emergency. Other thrusters on the service module are used for in-orbit maneuvers and spacecraft pointing control.

Boeing cannot afford more failures during this second demo flight. The company has been plagued with numerous debilitating technical failures during the past four years, from Starliner to its airlines. Right now the failure to get Starliner operational is losing them business in the emerging orbital tourist market. They need to get it working, and working reliably.

UPDATE: They have decided to cancel the launch plans for tomorrow, to roll the rocket back into the assembly building so they can do more tests on the capsule’s service module where the troublesome valves are.


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  • Doug Booker

    So was the vehicle/rocket or tower struck by lightning? Nobody is saying anything. Just that problem showed up when they tested after the storm. When was the last time that these tests were done and the system passed?

    Not exactly a resilient/robust design…

    I certainly hope that NASA isn’t paying Boeing anything for this test launch.

  • Jay

    Boeing is paying for this flight due to the problems of the first test.

  • Edward

    Doug Booker wrote: “I certainly hope that NASA isn’t paying Boeing anything for this test launch.

    It is a fixed price contract. The possibility, or probability, of problems like this arising is why the contracts cost so much more money than ordinary operations would make seem reasonable. There have been so few different models of manned spacecraft (eight in the 20th century, including the X-15) that this is not a robust industry, not one in which all the unknown unknowns are known. So far in this century, there have been only four manned spacecraft flown (counting the unmanned Starliner but considering the Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft as a Russian Soyuz). The contracts have some margin built in to handle problems like this, so if the problems can be avoided then the company is rewarded by an extra profit.

    Profit is the reward for increased efficiency.

  • Doug Booker: See this earlier post on BtB:

    Boeing budgets for extra unmanned Starliner test

    Boeing is paying the tab, as it is their problem to solve.

  • Doug Booker

    I honestly can’t believe that you all actually believe that. See the Funding section in Wikipedia.

    It shows the funding and that Boeing got an additional 287.2 million more than their “fixed” price of 4.2 billion. Yes they got additional funding amounting to more than 10% of the total amount that SpaceX got!

    So you really think they aren’t going to nickel and dime more out of our pockets? Of course they can just pad the Artemis cost plus contract.

  • Doug Booker: You are mistaken. Yes, $287 million of extra money was funnelled improperly to Boeing. See this November 2019 Behind the Black post: Inspector general slams NASA’s management for bonus payments to Boeing.

    However, NASA agreed to give that extra money to Boeing in 2017.

    The failed demo flight occurred in December 2019. Thus, that extra money had nothing to do with paying for the second flight, nor has NASA given Boeing any extra money since. Boeing wrote off $410 million to pay for this second unmanned flight, and has thus paid for it entirely.

  • Gary

    Another review of the scrub.

    I would quote the article, but Bob has standards on this site! :)

  • Gary: Yeah, I just wish others had similar standards. To be crude on purpose is to be uncivilized. That so many people like being crude and uncivilized baffles me.

    Barbarians will not get to the Moon or Mars. Keep behaving like this and your rockets and spaceships will all function like Boeing’s.

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