Conscious Choice cover

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.


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and 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.

Firefly selling its rocket engines to Astra

Capitalism in space: It now appears that Firefly’s effort to diversify its rocket business by selling its Reaver rocket engine to other companies has resulted in it selling that engines to its competitor Astra, for possible use either in that company’s smallsat rocket or in an new redesigned rocket not yet revealed.

Under the [$30 million] deal, which closed earlier this year, Firefly will send up to 50 of its Reaver rocket engines to Astra’s rocket factory in Alameda, California, where a development engine was already delivered in late spring for roughly half a million dollars, according to an internal Firefly document viewed by The Verge and a person briefed on the agreement. Astra engineers have been picking apart the engine for detailed inspection, said a person familiar with the terms, who, like others involved in the deal, declined to speak on the record because of a strict non-disclosure agreement.

Apparently, the contract includes clauses that forbid Astra from using the engine in circumstances that directly compete with Firefly’s Alpha rocket.

The article also suggests that the contract will allow Astra to manufacture the engine itself, thus keeping its operations in-house and not dependent on outside contractors.

The deal suggests two things. First, it shows the growing strength of Firefly. It is not only going to make money launching satellites, it will also do so selling engines to other companies. Second, the deal suggests Astra has issues with its own rocket engine, and needs something better quickly to survive.


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  • Jay

    This is still pretty cool. The startups are helping each other.

  • Questioner

    This is a strange thing. Why is Firefly selling its core technology to a competitor who will copy the engine technology over the long term, even if a protection agreement is in place? Elon Musk would never do that.

  • Edward

    So far, Astra and Firefly do not compete directly. Astra puts 500 kg payloads into orbit, but Firefly puts heavier payloads into orbit. From the article:

    The IP agreement includes a clause that aims to ensure Astra’s rocket doesn’t directly compete with Firefly’s Alpha.

  • Questioner


    One company wants to transport 500 kg and the other 1000 kg into orbit. Not a very big difference in the market offer.
    I don’t strictly believe in contracts (or patents). Elon Musk doesn’t believe in patents either, for example.

    The result here will be that Astra’s engineers will receive a high quality training program from FireFly on how to build better rocket engines. In the years to come, Astra will have engines that may be similar to those of FireFly, but are not exactly identical. It may be difficult to show in detail that a copyright has been infringed by Astra. FireFly strengthens its own competition. In the end the IP- agreements will be cleverly bypassed by Astra.

  • Edward

    You wrote: “Elon Musk doesn’t believe in patents either, for example.

    SpaceX does not patent things that are not visible, which keeps proprietary technology secret longer than if they publish it in a patent. However, they do patent things that are visible, which would be strange behavior for a company that does not believe in patents.

    The result here will be that Astra’s engineers will receive a high quality training program from FireFly on how to build better rocket engines.

    Better engines, or different? Astra is using electric-pump fed engines called “Delphin” in its first stage, and from their Rocket 3.2 launch we know that they work up to orbit, so it may just be possible that Astra’s engineers know something about rocket engines and don’t need remedial educations. If you think that Astra’s recent failure means that the Delphin engine does not work well, let me remind you that Firefly’s engine also failed, so maybe Firefly’ engineers are no more knowledgeable than Astra’s engineers.

    Stealing technology? You seem to think that all companies are as evil and untrustworthy as Microsoft.

  • Might be a little dated … and might be limited to his EV endeavor … but here’s Musk’s approach to patents back in 2014. Looks like he patents things … than chooses to open-source them as it suits him.

    But yes, there are other things that he does not patent, to keep them out of sight of competitors.

    In the context of SpaceX, competitors like … ahem … China.

    “We have essentially no patents. Our primary long-term competition is China. If we published patents, it would be farcical, because the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book.”

    Harvard Business Review, “Elon Musk Doesn’t Care About Patents. Should You?” 04 March 2021

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