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My February birthday fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black it now over. I sincerely and with deep gratitude thank all those who donated. Without your support 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. For those who did not contribute during the campaign, please consider adding your vote of support to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, 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. Donate through Gabpay, using my email address zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

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

4. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
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February 7, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.






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.


  • Chris

    What causes a satellite “break up” ?

  • Edward

    Chris asked: “<emWhat causes a satellite 'break up' ?”

    There are several possibilities. A satellite may break up on deployment if things go badly during the process. Since Kosmos 2499 was launched eight years ago, this is certainly not the cause.

    Another reason is an out of control situation, such as a thruster sticking and the satellite spinning too fast for its structure to hold together. Since there are at least 85 pieces, I think this is also unlikely.

    Another possibility is an overpressure event in a propellant tank, battery, or other part that may be able to rupture. Although I have little more knowledge other than the very short and uninformative announcement at the link, I suspect this to be the most likely cause.

    This article gives another example of a decommissioned satellite breakup, a couple of years ago:

    I worked on communication satellites that used nickel-hydrogen batteries, and they had to be carefully managed in order to assure that they did not overpressure and explode.

    Some reports have speculated, based on its unusual powered maneuvers, that it may be an experimental anti-satellite weapon, satellite maintenance vehicle, or collector of space debris.

    If it were an experimental anti-satellite weapon, this may explain why it broke up. If it were a collector of space debris, then this breakup would be ironic.

    Mars Observer was lost during or after a trajectory maneuver on its way to Mars.
    On January 4, 1994, an independent investigation board from the Naval Research Laboratory, announced their findings: the most probable cause in the loss of communication was a rupture of the fuel pressurization tank in the spacecraft’s propulsion system. It is believed that hypergolic fuel may have leaked past valves in the system during the cruise to Mars, allowing the fuel and oxidizer to combine prematurely before reaching the combustion chamber. The leaking fuel and gas probably resulted in a high spin rate, causing the spacecraft to enter into the “contingency mode”; this interrupted the stored command sequence and did not turn the transmitter on. The engine was derived from one belonging to an Earth orbital satellite and was not designed to lie dormant for months before being fired.
    Although it is not known whether Mars Observer broke up, in my mind this is what happened from the presumed ruptured tank and possible external ignition.

    Space is dangerous to work in, not just for people but for the hardware. Care must always be taken. A car crash on Earth can be cleaned up, but in space the parts are often around for a long time, posing a hazard to travel and navigation.

  • Chris

    Thanks Edward

  • Richard M

    Not sure where else would be appropriate to offer this, but apparently, at the CST conference today, Gwynne Shotwell says that SpaceX is going to attempt a 33-engine Starship static fire tomorrow.

  • Richard M: I have added this to today’s quick links, and given you a hat tip.

  • Richard M

    No acknowledgement was necessary – but thank you just the same, Bob!

    BTW, Mary, aka Bocachicagal, has now confirmed that she has received an overpressure notice for tomorrow, which makes this even more real, I suppose.

    Unexpected technical difficulties could force a cancellation. But it definitely appears that SpaceX is going to *attempt* a 33 engine static fire tomorrow.

    P.S. A side note, but one other interesting item came out of Shotwell’s talk: She indicated that Starlink is now making money. “This year Starlink will make money. We actually had a cash flow positive quarter last year.”

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