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.

The FAA is inching closer to approving a license to allow SpaceX to conduct tests in Texas of its rocket-powered prototype of its Dragon capsule.

The competition heats up: The FAA is inching closer to approving a license to allow SpaceX to conduct tests in Texas of its rocket-powered prototype of its Dragon capsule.

Simply, DragonFly is a propulsive system designed to allow the SpaceX Dragon capsule to perform propulsive landings (both with and without parachute assistance). Overall, DragonFly will use eight SuperDraco hypergolic engines capable of producing up to 16,400 lbf of thrust each. …

In all, SpaceX has proposed, and submitted to the FAA for commercial experimental license, a total of 30 DragonFly tests at its McGregor test facility. Four of the test flights involve DragonFly being dropped from a helicopter at an altitude of 10,000 ft with two propulsive assist landings parachutesand engines) and two propulsive landings (engines only). The remaining 26 of the proposed test flights will launch from a specially-built pad that will take between 1-2 weeks to construct (according to the FAA draft environmental report). These 26 flights will consist of eight parachute-assist landings and 18 full propulsive hops (rocket engines only).

We should all be relieved: The 76-page draft environmental impact statement noted that these tests will not destroy the Earth, and that their effect on global warming will be tiny. If the license is finally approved, testing should begin before the end of 2014.


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  • Pzatchok

    I just don’t believe it. I can’t believe it.

    Its just not possible that a private company can do what the Russians have been doing for 40 years. Soft landing a ship from space on land.
    No way it can be done without a 10 billion dollar budget, 45 thousand engineers and 10 years of research.
    It just can’t be done. Its impossible.

    I will not believe it even if I see it. Even if it lands on me.

    The FAA must just be laughing behind their backs. Just letting them crash these things all over the place just to watch them fail.

    This must just be one of those Branson stunts just for publicity to get more launch contracts.
    They can’t be serious.

  • Can you provde links to information describing Russian’s soft-landing boost stages? I didn’t know they’d been doing that since the 70’s.

  • Pzatchok

    The Soyuz craft still used today to bring back cosmonauts uses braking thrusters in its final landing phase for a softer landing.
    Its been working since 1966 or so.

    Granted they are only fired a meter or so off the ground and they are purely solid rockets but the system has worked for decades.

    I see no reason the Dragon Fly cargo/passenger module can’t use a very similar system.

    The article was not about the boost stage but about the return capsule.
    Space X is pretty much already soft landing its first stage. At least on water for now.

  • geoffc

    All Soyuz’s capsules, land under parachutes on land, and just before touchdown, the seats of the cosmonauts rotate, and then solid rockets in the base of the heat shield fire, to reduce the velocity of impact, for a soft landing.

    Soft being relative there. Several Gs bump. Dragon is proposing a much softer landing.

  • Edward

    The landing is fascinating. It looks like the spacecraft explodes, but it is only the landing rockets. (1 minute)

    This ESA video has much more, including a view inside the capsule of the seats re-positioning (at 17:45), as geoffc mentioned: (20 minutes)
    “The soft landing is not really soft.”

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