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.

Starship 50,000 ft hop now scheduled for Nov 30th

Capitalism in space: Having completed all preliminary static fire tests, SpaceX has now set November 30th as the target date for 50,000 foot high hop for its eighth Starship prototype.

SpaceX is understood to be conducting a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for the test flight, with this final Static Fire test providing key data to the final go to proceed towards SN8’s big day.

Elon Musk has already calibrated public expectations on the expected outcome of SN8’s test, noting that “understanding exactly how the body flaps control pitch, yaw & roll during descent, such that the ship is positioned well to relight, flip & land, would be a big win.” As opposed to expecting SN8 to land feet first on the landing pad.

Musk’s point is important. The primary engineering goal for this first hop will be to find out whether they truly understand how to control and fly Starship. Their knowledge in this area is only computer based, and thus is very incomplete, and could very well be wrong, resulting in a failure that prevents a proper clean landing.

Such as failure however would actually be an engineering success, as it would give them the data needed to make later prototypes work. As for landing, they know how to do that already. Once they get the flying right, the landing should follow.

SpaceX has said it will live stream that hop. Should be a thrill to watch.


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  • geoffc

    And as Musk noted, SN9 is approaching completion, SN10 is under construction, all the way to SN15. So if SN8 pancakes, SN9 will be following behind it soon.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I’m seeing a looming problem. Looks like Elon May have over-built his permit at Boca Chica, and a Biden administration might turn some scoundrel like Weissman loose on him.

  • David

    I’m seeing that same sentiment all over, even at places like Ars where the commenters are completely leftists, people are afraid the Biden administration is going to at least support, if not push, an attempt to hinder SpaceX at Boca Chica. That even supporters of our government think it would chose to deliberately hinder that operation, instead of getting behind it and pushing, is really indicative of how screwed things are these days.

  • eddie willers

    The Big Guy wants a piece of the action.

  • Michael

    The good news is that I was not being paranoid. The bad new is that I was not being paranoid.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Puts a new slant on why Musk might be in such a hurry to get a demonstration of concept done, doesn’t it? He must know that a President Trump would never let anything stop him, whereas a Biden just might be pursued by the “watermelons” to do just that!

    Chi must be thinking… there’s more than one way to beat America to Mars!

  • Even if the ship blows up or crashes, SpaceX will have learned things no one has been *able* to learn before.
    Even if the senile child-molester steals the election, that data will still exist, waiting for another chance to be used.

  • Mike Borgelt

    IFAIK, high angle of attack flow at supersonic and hypersonic speeds is well understood. We are really talking the effectiveness and control of the dragerons at subsonic speeds here. I’d have been dropping subscale dynamic models from a helicopter or out the back of a C-130.
    Use radar altimeter to deploy parachute and one model is all you need. Anyone know if this has been done?
    I think Elon is deliberately playing down the odds of successful landing

  • Edward

    Robert noted: “Musk’s point is important. The primary engineering goal for this first hop will be to find out whether they truly understand how to control and fly Starship. Their knowledge in this area is only computer based, and thus is very incomplete, and could very well be wrong, resulting in a failure that prevents a proper clean landing.

    I’m not quite sure that it is only about “understanding exactly how the body flaps control pitch, yaw & roll during descent, ” but may investigate overcoming the effects of slosh due to whatever propellant remains in the large main tanks. The header tanks are there to reduce the amount of propellant sloshing around, as the header tanks will be mostly full and should not slosh much. Ullage has long been a concern in aircraft and spacecraft, and this may be a new problem, considering the planned maneuvers so close to the ground and landing.

    Who knows what other surprises could be in store for SpaceX’s engineers?

    There are other constraints to consider. A ship as large as Starship cannot maneuver too quickly, because the imposed g-forces can be tremendous, putting extra stress on parts of the ship, causing any returning cargo to put extra stresses on its securing hold points, or causing discomfort or life-threatening stresses on returning passengers aboard a manned Starship.

    Rocket design in the past has not worried much about lateral forces, because rockets traditionally only travel through an atmosphere with most of the forces acting axially. Starship will ultimately be designed to have tremendous forces acting on its heat shield side. This is a large deviation from the usual “best practices” of rocket science, and SN8 is the first rocket that I know of to intentionally travel sideways through an atmosphere.

    For a number of reasons, this test flight should be very interesting.; Unfortunately, the test data and stress data are likely to be proprietary and unlikely to be available for we engineers to “ooh” and “aah” over. Just wait until they add other aspects, such as heating from reentry.

    I wish SpaceX luck with this and their other tests. This is not the first time these guys have tried insane things, they have always needed luck with their extreme engineering. Insanity runs in the company. I think they were lucky with Falcon Heavy’s maiden voyage, because their craziness has not always worked out the first time. Does anyone remember how many tries it took before they successfully landed a first stage booster on a rockin’ and rollin’ ship at sea?

    These guys are bold to try some of the things they try and brave to show it live on “TV.” As the song says: fools rush in where wise men never go. To paraphrase the other song: would it be a sin if some can’t help falling in love with SpaceX.

    Some things are meant to be. Or not. We shall see.

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