Scroll down to read this post.


Without the support of my readers I could not keep doing this, not so much because of the need for income to pay the bills, but because it tells me that there are people out there who want me to do this work. If you wish to add your vote of support to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, you can do so in any one of the following ways:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Bezos vs Branson: Virgin Galactic to do suborbital flight on July 11th carrying Richard Branson


Capitalism in space: Virgin Galactic today announced that it is now planning its first passenger flight of its VSS Unity suborbital spacecraft on July 11th, and that flight will carry Richard Branson as one of its passengers.

[Aleanna Crane, vice president of communications for Virgin Galactic] said that the last flight had been so flawless that the team had decided to test the cabin experience. “Who better to test the full cabin experience than Richard Branson?” she said. “He is flying as a mission specialist, and he has a role like the rest of the crew.” The craft will carry three other Virgin Galactic employees in the cabin seats in addition to the two pilots up front.

…The company plans to broadcast the flight beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern time on July 11. The SpaceShipTwo rocket, named Unity, will be carried under an airplane named White Knight Two to an altitude of 50,000 feet before being dropped. Unity’s engine will then ignite, taking it up to higher than 50 miles. At the top of the arc, passengers will float for about four minutes before the space plane re-enters the atmosphere and glides to a runway landing.

By flying on July 11th, Virgin Galactic — and Branson — will beat Blue Origin — and Jeff Bezos — by nine days in accomplishing the first passenger suborbital flight. Blue Origin’s July 20th flight however will be carrying the first paying customer, while Virgin Galactic’s flight will not.

For Branson making this flight ahead of Bezos is almost essential. He has been promising this flight now for more than fourteen years, always declaring it was only months from happening. It never did, and the years dragged on and on with no achievement or Virgin Galactic suborbital tourist flights. To get beaten now would be quite embarrassing, to put it mildly. Yet, to only win this race by mere days remains embarrassing as well, since Virgin Galactic was supposed to do this more than a decade ago and did not.

Regardless, both flights are stunts intended to garner publicity and encourage ticket sales for future suborbital flights. And while there appears to be some market interest in these suborbital flights, both are mere pipsqueaks to the coming orbital tourist flights by SpaceX, Axiom, and the Russians, with Boeing to follow shortly thereafter.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • geoffc

    I still say Musk should have simply paid for a Dragon Crew flight, like Inspiration and flown it a week before these two jokers did. And actually gone to orbit for 3 days before both of them. And he could have invited Tory Bruno to fly with him, just to rub it in. (But Bruno would have to bring his own engines).

  • Doubting Thomas

    There is no up voting here but I do want to up vote geoffc comment! THAT event would have been fun to watch but beside Bruno, he would have invited Dave Calhoun, the new CEO of Boeing too.

    I saw here, some days ago, that Virgin Galactic got their FAA OK to fly commercial launches. Did not see where Blue Origin has that license, did they get it? They must have in order to fly Wally Funk and $28 million person – right?

    What about SpaceX guessing they have it too and gotten as part of commercial crew?

    I know all that has been discussed before but I’m a little hazy on these things.

  • Col Beausabre

    Bob, Getting there first can be everything

    “On February 14, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone patent application entitled “Improvement in Telegraphy” was filed at the USPTO by Bell’s attorney Marcellus Bailey. Elisha Gray’s attorney filed a caveat for a telephone just a few hours later entitled “Transmitting Vocal Sounds Telegraphically.”

    Alexander Graham Bell was the fifth entry of that day, while Elisha Gray was 39th. Therefore, the U.S. Patent Office awarded Bell with the first patent for a telephone, US Patent 174,465 rather than honor Gray’s caveat. ”

    Your mother would approved, get out of bed early and do your chores rather than sleeping in.

  • Chris Lopes

    Musk doesn’t need a stunt, he has working spacecraft. His first flight will probably be to the Moon, on a Starship. So no, I don’t think he’s feeling much envy at Branson or Bezos.

    That being said, barnstorming is a great way to get the average citizen interested in this stuff and make the public aware of what is now possible. We are all now living in a Heinlein juvenile, we might as well enjoy the ride.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “Regardless, both flights are stunts intended to garner publicity and encourage ticket sales for future suborbital flights.

    But at least we are finally getting these flights.

    As a counterfactual, would Congress have slow-walked the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) had either of these two companies been flying in 2015? An alternate question: would either of these two companies been flying a couple of years ago had Congress not slow-walked NASA’s CCP?

    It is clear to me that these two suborbital companies finally got their acts together only because of the new “competition” from the spinoff commercial tourism resulting from CCP. Space tourism was finally going commercial, and these two companies did not want to miss out. After all, it was their industry, not SpaceX’s.

  • pzatchok

    Neither is serious about space flight.

    The VSS unity is a bad design from the go. Branson will be lucky to live through it.

    And as for Blue Origin they have been slow walking their whole program since the start. They could have been flying people years ago.

    They are now both trying to make a flight for a reason other than making a space flight.
    They might just be under tax and stock investigation for stringing along investors.
    A space flight might be all they can do to prove they are a serious space company and not just in it for the cash.

  • Col Beausabre

    I’m no admirer of Branson, but isn’t any space tourism company “just in it for the cash”? Indeed, under capitalism, isn’t every company “just in it for the cash”? To heck with claims about operating to improve the lot of mankind, if you don’t make money, you soon don’t have a company, The IRS even has rules about how long you can lose money before you are declared a hobby and can no longer write off your losses on taxes,

    “The IRS will only allow you to claim losses on your business for three out of five tax years. If you don’t show that your business is starting to make a profit, then the IRS can prohibit you from claiming your business losses on your taxes.

    After you claim a loss for three of the five years, the IRS will classify your business as a hobby. Hobbies are not tax deductible so you won’t be able to claim any of your expenses on your taxes. This declassification is called the Hobby Loss Rule.”

  • wayne

    Col Beausabre-
    All around good stuff.

    and speaking of stuff…..

    Elon Musk? & Akira The Don?
    “If You Don’t Make Stuff, There’s No Stuff”
    June 2020

  • wayne

    Thomas Durant’s speech…..

  • Edward

    Col Beausabre asked: “I’m no admirer of Branson, but isn’t any space tourism company ‘just in it for the cash’? Indeed, under capitalism, isn’t every company ‘just in it for the cash’?

    All companies are started in order to provide revenue to feed, house, and clothe the founders’ families. This is done by supplying goods or services that others are willing to purchase.

  • pzatchok

    I meant in it for the investors cash and not for the customers cash.

    Branson has been selling off all his stock in Galactic the space company. Without selling a single seat, how much money has he skimmed out of the company straight from the investors pockets basically.

    And Bexos has had how many years to start selling seats on his rocket and yet not a single passenger.
    And what about his rocket engine he sold to the military? Not a single one flown yet. But he and his company are making a profit?

    Riding that Hobby line pretty close.

  • Col Beausabre

    pzatchok, If they haven’t claimed any business expenses on their taxes, they’re OK. The clock starts the first time you claim business expenses. I gotta admit their financial statements would look pretty bizarre, income (maybe)but no expenses, I guess the IRS presumes no sane firm will forgo the expense deduction from income.

    Strictly speaking, by applying the matching principle from GAP, when they get a deposit for a flight, they record a liability (they now owe somebody a flight) and an increase to cash. Once the flight occurs, the liability is erased and the sum transferred to income which is matched against the expenses incurred in flying the spacecraft. This is known as “recognizing income”. Subtract expenses from income and you get gross profit (loss) If you wish to delve deeper, here ya go

  • wayne

    Col Beausabre–
    What are the depreciation rates for “rockets” and associated aerospace equipment?
    (I’ve looked this up before but not having any luck presently doing just a cursory search.)

  • Col Beausabre

    1. If you use it one time, the total cost of building the rocket goes directly from asset to expense

    2. If it’s a multiple use machine, take the total cost and divide by estimated life (number of flights), then deduct that amount from assets and charge it to expense every time you fly the rocket (You might also estimate the life in years and write down a portion of the asset annually. I think the maximum life under MACRS would be seven years (Class Air Transport) I also think the first method listed would be the most appropriate)

    “The MACRS Asset Life table is derived from Revenue Procedure 87-56 1987-2 CB 674. The table specifies asset lives for property subject to depreciation under the general depreciation system provided in section 168(a) of the IRC or the alternative depreciation system provided in section 168(g)”

    3. There are two ways to treat refurbishment costs after a flight

    a, Expense them

    b. Add them to the value of the rocket after the charge to assets from the flight

    Either would be acceptable, BUT you have to apply the rule consistently across the all your rockets and all flights. If you want to
    change, you would have to convince your auditors, who are very skeptical about things like that – after all, a partner has to
    >personally< sign the auditor's opinion, placing his or her reputation on the line and possibly opening oneself to legal action.
    Changing from one method of accounting to another brings into the question of consistency, which enables financial statements
    to be compared across time.

    Management – "What were our financial results last year?"

    Accounting – "What do you want them to be?"

  • wayne

    Col Beausabre-
    take a look at– (it’s not the one I want, but representative)

    Back at the turn of the century (sounds strange to say that) my wife & I ran a small personal services company and we were looking at a flat 35% statutory tax rate. (outrageous! the tax man always shows up at Harvest time, but never at Planting time, ya know?!)
    Longer story shortened– Had a con-fab with the newly hired CPA, wherein he advised that if at least 5% of our total Revenue was derived from the sale of associated printed-matter (training manuals and the like) then we were NOT subjected to the minimum 35% rate. Reconfigured our prices & offering’s and it was off to the races.
    (the rest of the story—circa 2008 the CPA we had got squeezed big-time on the building he was financing and subsequently started “co-mingling client assets,” and “failing to deposit employment taxes,” and eventually went on to serve 7 years in a State prison)

  • Col Beausabre

    Wayne, The Bureau of Economic Analysis (Commerce Department) can publish whatever they wish, what counts are the rules published by Internal Revenue Service (Treasury Department) as interpreted by the guidance issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (A trade organization whose guidance has been interpreted by the courts as definitive) as to what constitutes Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Deviate from GAAP at your peril – the SEC, FTC, DOJ and a whole bunch of other letters will come down on you like a tornado.

    I’m not conversant with the “publishing” loophole, but I didn’t get involved with personal services, I dealt with people who bent metal and built things and the software to run it.

    “Commingling” is one of the deadliest sins in accounting. In involves mixing the funds from two or more of your clients or a clients funds with your own (usually to access the client’s funds to support a lifestyle you can’t afford). One of the golden rules is separate accounts and books for each of your clients and for your firm.

  • wayne

    I’ll drop this in here…

    “Is It Possible to Fly A Rocket To Space Without Autopilot?”
    Scott Manley (July 7 2021)

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 *