The final week of my annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black has begun. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, including numerous donations and a surge of new subscribers willing to commit to donating anywhere from $2 to $25 per month. Wow! The numbers are too many to send out individual thank you’s, so please forgive me for thanking you all with this one announcement.


The campaign however must go on, especially because I have added more regular features to my daily workload. In addition to my daily never-ending reporting on space exploration and science, my regular launch reports, my monthly sunspot updates, the regular cool images, and the evening pauses I post each evening, I have now added a daily weekday post I have entitled "Today's blacklisted American." Its goal is not to discuss policy or politics, but to note the endless examples occurring across the United States where some jack-booted thug or thugs think it is proper and acceptable to censor, blackball, cancel, and destroy an innocent American, merely because that American has expressed or holds an opinion or is of a race or religion that is no longer considered acceptable to the dominant leftist and bigoted culture. I want to make clear to every American that a large number of your fellow citizens no longer believe in the enlightened concept of freedom of speech or the idea of treating each person by the quality of their character.


Instead, they wish to shut you up, and oppress you if you happen to disagree with them or have the wrong skin color. This evil must be exposed.


To continue to do this into the foreseeable future however I need your support. If you are one of those millions who read Behind the Black each month, please consider donating or subscribing. Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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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
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1st Vulcan test core stage arrives at Kennedy

Capitalism in space: ULA’s first complete Vulcan core stage, meant at this point only for testing launch procedures, has arrived at Cape Canaveral.

After connecting the launch platform and the rocket to gas and electrical systems at the pad, ULA engineers will run the Vulcan booster and the ground infrastructure through a series of exercises, culminating in loading of thousands of gallons of cryogenic liquid methane and liquid oxygen into the rocket.

Once these tests are complete, the stage will be returned to ULA’s facility in Alabama to be refitted with flight worthy BE-4 engines so it can fly on a later mission. The engines presently attached are test engines.

ULA expects the first flightworthy BE-4 engines to be delivered by Blue Origin by the summer. These will then be incorporated into the first Vulcan to fly (hopefully before the end of the year) and carrying Astrobotic’s unmanned Peregrine lunar lander.

That rocket, as will all Vulcan rockets for the foreseeable future, will be entirely expendable. Though ULA says it intends at some point to recover for reuse the engines of the core stage, they have not delineated a time schedule for when that will happen.

At this point the only customer ULA has for this rocket is the government — especially the military. Vulcan cannot compete in price with SpaceX’s rockets, so I doubt any commercial satellite company will be much interested in it. The military will pay the extra bucks, because it wants more than one launch company for redundancy, and it has already committed to buying Vulcans for the next five years.

Of course, that long term commitment to Vulcan by the military will likely change if other cheaper rockets enter the market. At the present the military is limiting bidding on future launches to just SpaceX and ULA. That cannot hold up in court if other viable rocket companies wish to bid. Expect those new companies to do what SpaceX did when the Air Force refused to let it bid on military launches about five years ago, sue, and win in court.

At that point ULA’s an entirely expendable Vulcan will be very vulnerable to losing its last customer. ULA must make this rocket reusable or it will die as a company.

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.


  • Jeff Wright

    Call me a lefty-but I want to see diversity in launcher design. Vulcan should be a winged design-a fly back SRB replacement. Large silo housed all solid designs for surprise NEO transients…otrag for India…Bezos funding Skylon…Musk putting jet pods on Starship until thing get dialed in.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “ULA must make this rocket reusable or it will die as a company.

    An alternative is to begin doing business solely in space and cede the launch business to others. ULA already is working on ACES, a space-based transporter. However, I think it is more likely that they want to stay in the launch business with Cislunar transportation as a sideline.

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