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.
 

The SpaceX fleet of Dragons

The first manned Dragon capsule on the launchpad
The first manned Dragon capsule, on the launchpad

Capitalism in space: During the post-launch press briefing after launch of its second manned Dragon mission on November 15, SpaceX CEO Gwynne Shotwell revealed the company’s plans to build and fly a fleet of Dragon cargo and crew capsules, and reuse them repeatedly over the coming years..

Specifically, Shotwell revealed that SpaceX intends to build three reusable Cargo Dragon 2 capsules, one of which is already completed and in Florida preparing for its December 2nd CRS-21 launch debut. On the crew side of things, SpaceX will build “three more” Crew Dragon capsules on top of the flight-proven Demo-2 and currently orbital Crew-1 capsules. It’s unclear if this means that the new Crew Dragon capsule flown on SpaceX’s January 2020 In-Flight Abort (IFA) test will be refurbished for additional flights.

Excluding IFA Crew Dragon capsule C205, SpaceX thus intends to operate a fleet of at least three Cargo Dragon 2 and five Crew Dragon capsules, representing eight reusable spacecraft each capable of at least five orbital missions.

She also hinted that the company has plans to fly its own missions, using these spacecraft, in addition to its contracted flights for NASA and the private company Axiom.

This private capability, which far exceeds anything ever built by NASA or any government worldwide, is entirely because Elon Musk had the freedom and the will to push for his particular vision. He had a bold idea, and with courage he pursued it.

It also occurred because Musk refused to let the naysayers in both the government and the moribund old big rocket industry stop him. And they tried, believe me, they tried. When Musk realized that using subcontractors to build his rockets put him at their mercy (a fact that has killed other new space companies in the past), he decided not to do it, and instead had everything built in house.

When NASA’s corrupt bureaucracy attempted to slow down development of the manned Dragon capsule, sometimes for ridiculous reasons, he and SpaceX refused to back down, and instead applied enough strong pressure on the agency to force them to back down instead.

When Congress tried to starve NASA’s commercial space budget, favoring instead its bloated still-unlaunched SLS rocket, Musk turned to private investment to supplement SpaceX’s profits to finance the company. More importantly, he made sure the company remained lean and mean, so that this tight funding did not slow down development of this fleet, as some people hoped.

Isn’t freedom wonderful? I wonder how many people in the United States now understand this. The social trends appear that at least half do not, and would rather depend on government for everything, while using it as a tool to squelch that freedom.

We can only hope that SpaceX’s success in the coming years will help change those trends, and once again make freedom the watchword, so that it may once again proclaim liberty throughout the land.

Readers! My Quick November Fund-Raiser for Behind the Black is now over
 

I cannot thank the numerous people who so generously donated or subscribed to Behind the Black during this fund drive. The response was remarkable, and reflected the steady growth and popularity of the work I have been doing here for the past ten-plus years.


Thank you again!


Though the find-raising campaign is officially over, and I am no longer plastering the main page with requests for help, if you like what you have read you can still contribute, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


 

If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

16 comments

  • V-Man

    Wonder if they are all going to get individual names. What about the Cargo Dragons?

  • Milt

    Is the Second Space Age Over?

    The SpaceX Dragon fleet is just another manifestation of the Second Space Age, whose entrepreneurial basis — as Robert has chronicled in this forum — has the capacity to totally transform the way that we approach the exploration and utilization of the High Frontier. If this sort of thing were to continue, there is no telling where and how human beings might be living and working in another fifty years.

    Unhappily, this approach is anathema to our (apparently) newly elected Democratic Overlords, and I cannot imagine that they will allow it to “go on.” Indeed, the idea of opening up space to “ordinary people” is so inherently destructive to the concept of total state control of all aspects of human life that no autocrat could possibly allow it to proceed. (These people may be evil, but they are not stupid, and they know an existential threat to themselves when they see it.) The question, of course, is how it can be stopped, and what can be done to make sure that SpaceX and the ideas behind it are no longer a “threat” to the agenda of the Global Reset.

    Like a lot of things that will be happening after January 20, the promise of a Second Space Age will likely come to an untimely end, and with it the hopes and dreams of all of us who grew up in the early days of the first space age and who were left wondering “what happened” when that dream withered and died in the dead hand of NASA’s / Washington’s suffocating bureaucracy.

    This poem, by Langston Hughes, was written in a very different context, but the thought applies here as well.

    Dream Deferred

    What happens to a dream deferred?

    Does it dry up
    Like a raisin in the sun?

    Or fester like a sore–
    And then run?

    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over–
    like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load.

    Or does it explode?

    Or, as John Lennon wrote in another poem,
    God, from John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band,

    The dream is over
    What can I say?
    The dream is over
    Yesterday
    I was the dream weaver
    But now I’m reborn
    I was the Walrus
    But now I’m John
    And so dear friends
    You just have to carry on
    The dream is over

  • mkent

    This private capability, which far exceeds anything ever built by NASA or any government worldwide, is entirely because Elon Musk had the freedom and the will to push for his particular vision. He had a bold idea, and with courage he pursued it.

    Such hyperbole.

    First of all, the Space Shuttle was far more capable as a launch vehicle, as a return vehicle, and as a space station. Second, Boeing is building a fleet of re-usable Starliners, and Sierra Nevada is building a fleet of re-usable DreamChasers.

    I like SpaceX and what they’re doing here, but they’re hardly unique.

    When NASA’s corrupt bureaucracy attempted to slow down development of the manned Dragon capsule…

    On the contrary, NASA has expended a lot of effort to speed up SpaceX. SpaceX and Boeing are both years behind schedule.

  • mkent: Yawn. I know you don’t like it when SpaceX tops the world, but at this moment in time, no one else has anything comparable to SpaceX. When Boeing and Sierra Nevada make it happen, I will be the first to cheer. In fact, I want them to succeed so that there is competition in this market. Just because I am praising SpaceX’s success today does not imply in the slightest a criticism of these other companies. In fact, the point of my essay was to laud the possibility, with freedom, that others will join SpaceX.

    They haven’t yet done it however. They haven’t yet even flown their first manned spacecraft successfully, even unmanned. We must recognize this.

    As for the shuttle, it might have had more engineering capability than Dragon, but its high cost and relatively limited reusability limited its possibilities. In the end it became a dead end, leading nowhere else. What SpaceX is doing is open-ended and has changed the entire aerospace world. And Boeing and Sierra Nevada and Relativity and Firefly and others can do the same, as long as freedom reigns.

    And to think NASA speeded up SpaceX is a laugh.

  • Michael G. Gallagher

    If the Harris-Biden clique tries to shut down Space X, all Musk will do is restart his operations elsewhere. I can easily imagine him moving to the Middle East where he could then team up with Israeli tech and Arab Gulf oil money. He could then launch out of Oman across the Indian Ocean. Or he might turn his sights to East Asia, where he would be able to access the tech and capital available in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea. Musk would then launch out of Australia across the Indian Ocean or the Pacific.

    If he wants to, Musk will almost certainly be able to relocate his space operations elsewhere. The big loser will be the USA, which would then become the Spain and Portugal of the new space age, two seafaring powers that were left behind by the more dynamic English and Dutch in the 17th century.

  • mkent

    mkent: Yawn. I know you don’t like it when SpaceX tops the world…

    Now where in the world does this come from? I’ve been a SpaceX fan since 2003. Are we really at the point now that we can’t even point out the capability of competitors to SpaceX? I bet you wonder why people think SpaceX fandom is a cult.

    Just because I am praising SpaceX’s success today…

    You didn’t just praise SpaceX’s success today. You said it “…far exceeds anything ever built by NASA or any government worldwide…” I correctly pointed out the the Crew Dragon pales in capability to what the Space Shuttle had. The Space Shuttle carried a crew twice as big for a far longer period of free flight. It could carry with it 50,000 lbs of cargo, deploy and retrieve satellites the size of a school bus, serve as a space station, host spacewalks, support 900 square feet of scientific instruments, and conduct on-orbit repair and construction tasks, none of which can be done by Crew Dragon.

    In the end it became a dead end, leading nowhere else.

    Are you not aware that the largest, most complex space station ever built was mostly built by the Shuttle? The very space station that Crew Dragon is docked to? The station that has served as the focal point for all non-Chinese manned spaceflight for the last 22 years and continues to do so? The station without which Crew Dragon would not exist? The station without which SpaceX would no longer exist?

    The Shuttle built the Station, and the Station begat Cygnus, Cargo Dragon, Crew Dragon, Starliner, and DreamChaser. And those will lead to the Gateway, the Human Landing System, and the Mars Transport Vehicle. Far from leading nowhere, everything we have in manned spaceflight came from the Shuttle.

    What SpaceX is doing is open-ended and has changed the entire aerospace world.

    Good heavens!! The hyperbole! No, most of the aerospace world goes on as though SpaceX never existed. Airlines fly 10,000 jetliners, none of them ever built by SpaceX. Pilots fly 100,000 private planes, none of them ever built by SpaceX. A-10s perforate terrorists, Super Hornets conduct combat air patrol, Apaches plink tanks, JDAMs blow things up, Gulfstreams ferry celebrities, GOES tracks hurricanes, Kennans spy on Russia and China, and traffic reporters tool around their cities in helicopters, none of which were ever built by SpaceX.

    What SpaceX has done is modestly reduced the cost of an intermediate-class payload to orbit and beat their commercial ISS supply competitors to market by a year or two. Good things, but a tiny corner of the aerospace world.

    And to think NASA speeded up SpaceX is a laugh.

    Yes, NASA has sped up SpaceX tremendously. First of all, SpaceX would no longer exist without NASA. Secondly, they got *a lot* of help from NASA (and some from Boeing) getting Cargo Dragon and Crew Dragon to the point they could berth / dock to the ISS.

    SpaceX was years late with Cargo Dragon, and the provisioning situation on the station got pretty dicey for a while. NASA was paying the Russians to send American cargo up on the Progress just to keep things going. SpaceX was also years late with Crew Dragon, causing NASA to spend hundreds of millions of dollars extra to keep a much-reduced crew on the station via Russian Soyuz vehicles. Believe me, NASA would much rather have had those vehicles (and Starliner) show up on time.

    I like what SpaceX has accomplished. Falcon 1, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Cargo Dragon, and Crew Dragon are all good things. But all of those were years late, and it hurt their customers. Pointing that out shouldn’t get anyone kicked out of the club.

  • john hare

    Michael,
    While I see the specifics playing out a bit differently, I very definitely agree on the flavor of your concerns. There are many international possibilities that could emerge once the road is known to exist, and the transportation can clearly be redeveloped.

    Elon Musk is unique as is the US. That does not mean that no one else can follow the lead. Toyota would not be nearly as much of a world leading company today if Detroit had maintained its’ original overwhelming advantage. There are real consequences to getting lazy and/or greedy and/or complacent and/or overregulated.

  • mkent

    If the Harris-Biden clique tries to shut down Space X, all Musk will do is restart his operations elsewhere. I can easily imagine him moving to the Middle East where he could then team up with Israeli tech and Arab Gulf oil money. He could then launch out of Oman across the Indian Ocean

    Why do you hate Musk so much that you want him to die? Because if he did what you suggest, he would either die in federal prison or be killed before he ever got there.

    You might want to look up the story of Gerald Bull.

  • Carlos Mezon

    Why “Dragons”?

    Hasn’t communist China done enough damage to us?

  • Edward

    mkent,
    You wrote: “Are we really at the point now that we can’t even point out the capability of competitors to SpaceX?

    Of course not, but we seem to be at the point now that we can’t even point out the capability of SpaceX, because people who claim to be fans complain.

    I wouldn’t get too excited about the Space Shuttle’s ability to be a space station, because it had to take a module up in its cargo bay in order to perform that function. Even then, it was a two-week space station.

    No, most of the aerospace world goes on as though SpaceX never existed.

    You’re kidding, right?

    Not only are launch companies dropping their prices and designing new launch vehicles in order to compete, but other companies are changing their business plans in order to fly passengers at Mach 5. Companies and governments are now building and launching satellites that without SpaceX’s lower prices they could never have afforded to launch.

    SpaceX showed the entire world that a non-government contractor, a very commercial company, could launch spacecraft and berth them (now dock them) to other spacecraft, and can perform space operations. This is a huge change in the paradigm of aerospace that has led to NASA hiring even more independent capabilities from a large number of additional companies. Even the Air Force is now open to the possibility of independent commercial operators.

    Are you purposefully being obtuse when you suggest that changing the entire aerospace world must mean that all satellites and airplanes should have suddenly changed their missions and capabilities? That is what a changed aerospace world means to you? Really? You complain about hyperbole then go to great extremes to use it yourself.

    First of all, SpaceX would no longer exist without NASA.

    There is a huge difference between having a customer and that customer speeding up your development program. Congress, through NASA, slowed the development of Cargo Dragon, Crew Dragon, and Starliner. That is a matter of record. NASA slowed development even further by requiring changes on various systems aboard these craft.

    But all of those were years late

    A lot you know about aerospace. A major difference between commercial space and government space is that commercial space develops its products in a more timely manner and at less cost. You complain about commercial space failing to meet its own optimistic schedules, but all of aerospace are late with their development programs. Aerospace is still hard, even after a century of experience.

    For someone who thinks he has been a fan of SpaceX since 2003, you sure don’t know much about the company or its history.

  • pzatchok

    Everything the Space shuttle did could have been dome with a standard heavy lift rocket. Just like the Chinese are doing now, 40 years late.

    If your knew anything about the space shuttle you would know why it was built to the exact dimensions it was. And in knowing that you would know why the shuttle was no longer needed even before it made its first flight.

    Every flight the shuttle flew was a ‘make work’ project. NASA and the government had to show something for all that investment.
    Sort of like the SLS is obviously becoming.

    NASA would NEVER build and fly the space shuttle today. First they would never in anyones dream certify the heat shield tile system.
    Second off they would never allow those solid boosters to fly a human.

  • Star Bird

    It was Sept 17th 1997 when The Jupiter 2 was launched from Lost in Space

  • Andrew_W

    mkent,
    I’m with Mr. Zimmerman on this one. The Space Shuttle was a parasite that only impeded US space development, sucking money out of and blocking the development of financially sane alternatives. It was primarily not an investment in America’s future in space but an investment for political advantage. The supporters of the SLS would love to see the competition destroyed just as the hoopla for the Shuttle Program destroyed the possibility of innovative competitors joining the race back then. The much lauded ISS goes nowhere, chewing through budgets to achieve almost nothing but travel in circles.

    Why do you hate Musk so much that you want him to die? . . . You might want to look up the story of Gerald Bull.

    That’s a silly comparison, Gerald Bull was killed because he allowed his engineering to be used by Saddam with a military intent, a better analogy would be with Peter Beck, who I do not see as being on anyone’s assassinations to do list.

    Also, what Edward said.

  • Edward

    pzatchok wrote: “NASA would NEVER build and fly the space shuttle today.

    Actually, NASA had originally conceived of a much smaller Space Shuttle, with a tiny pallet bay rather than a payload bay, but Nixon was not interested in spending any more money on manned space. NASA made tragic compromises in order to get Air Force support in order to get presidential support to build a next generation of manned spacecraft.

    pzatchok is right. The Space Shuttle experience was so bad for NASA that they regressed to capsules and completely expendable rockets for their third generation of manned spacecraft.

    Fortunately, commercial space is bold enough to continue with reusability, and Sierra Nevada has learned lessons from the Shuttle and is building a lifting body craft that lands on a runway.

  • pzatchok

    NASA did originally envision a much smaller shuttle.

    Politics stepped in and cut funding so NASA was forced to include the military size and shape requirement in order to get the funding needed.
    The military wanted to try to recover its spy satellite with their film canisters still inside them. This would make them safer and easier to recover and launch. Mainly KH-9 Hexigon.
    But before they could even try recovering the first one Kodak came out with the first digital camera in 1975 and all the next generation spy satellites used them. The KH-11 Kennen launched in 1976.

    The Hexagom and the Kennen are the very same size. They fit the shuttle perfectly. The Hubble is not surprisingly the very same shape and size.

    The first Shuttle flight was just 5 years later. After Kennen was launched the shuttle was just a make work project.
    Everything was designed to use the shuttle even though it all could have been launched on cheaper rockets.

    The Shuttle went from a public image space craft with a secret military mission to a huge boondoggle. A waste of cash only kept around to make NASA and the US government look good. It killed more astronauts than any other space program in the world all just to keep the contractors working.

  • Edward

    My point, yesterday, is that NASA didn’t really want the Space Shuttle that they ended up with. They wanted something better and less expensive, not something pretending to be everything and do everything.

Readers: the rules for commenting!

 

No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.

 

However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.

 

Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *