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.

Successful Rocket Lab launch and descent of 1st stage

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today successfully used its Electron rocket to 30 smallsats into orbit from its launchpad in New Zealand.

They also did their first launch test of their planned method for recovering the first stage for reuse. In their case the first stage will use parachutes to slow its descent, and will then be grabbed by a helicopter to be brought back to land. On this launch they were only testing the parachute portion of this plan, and allowed the stage to land in the water, where they then recovered it.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

30 China
20 SpaceX
12 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 33 to 30 in the national rankings.


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  • wayne

    Cool stuff.
    –> Enjoyed the lovely Ariana Ryan color commentary as well.

  • Steve Richter

    “… the first stage will use parachutes to slow its descent, and will then be grabbed by a helicopter to …”

    I assume this is outmoded technology compared to how SpaceX recovers its first stages. Meaning if SpaceX open sourced its tech, RocketLab would be able to launch at a lower cost. And maybe both companies benefit in that engineers would be better able to move from company to company, sharing what they know, applying their skills more efficiently.

  • Andrew_W

    Steve Richter, the helicopter grab makes sense for objects small enough to be grabbed by a helicopter, the SpaceX 1st stage is too large for that method.

  • David

    Outmoded is the wrong way to look at it. They covered this when they announced their plan. Falcon 9 is a large, heavy launcher that has plenty of reserve dV and can afford the extra mass of landing legs and fuel for the re-entry and landing burns. Electron has a much tighter dV budget, but is also smaller and lighter, so the parachutes are correspondingly smaller, lighter, and easier to develop. And catching it with a helicopter sounds low-tech, but it means no landing legs are needed, nor do they need a barge and the slow travel time back to a port where it can be lifted off by crane and then transported by truck to a refurbishing facility. I don’t think RocketLab has provided these details, but if the helicopter is delivering the booster right to the refurb site, their turnaround time could possibly be faster than SpaceX manages.

  • pzatchok

    I would like to Rocket lab use the same type of system Space X is using for their fairing recovery.

    Steerable parachutes.

    The helicopter catch is still a dangerous maneuver.

    Would a water landing be that detrimental to a properly prepped rocket?

  • Andrew_W

    The Electron first stage is seen in the Pacific Ocean in this image shared by Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck on Twitter. Credit: Rocket Lab via Peter Beck

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