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On February 5, 2023 I will celebrate my 70th birthday. Yay! As I do every year during this birthday month, I run a campaign to raise money to support my work here at Behind The Black. I do not run ads. My only support comes from my readers, which leaves me utterly free to speak my mind openly about space, culture, and politics. Please consider supporting me in this work by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, in any one of the following ways:


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From Virgin Galactic come two announcements today

The competition heats up: From Virgin Galactic come two announcements today:

The second is really the big news, especially as it appears they already have some customers.

LauncherOne will be a two-stage vehicle capable of carrying up to 500 pounds (225 kilograms) to orbit for prices below $10 million. The rocket will be launched from Virgin Galactic’s proven WhiteKnightTwo, the uniquely capable aircraft also designed to carry SpaceShipTwo aloft to begin her suborbital missions. Thanks to the extreme flexibility of air launch, Virgin Galactic’s customers will enjoy reduced infrastructure costs in addition to the wide range of possible launch locations tailored to individual mission requirements and weather conditions. Branson and other senior executives announced that work has already begun on the vehicle.

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.


  • Joe

    “LauncherOne will be a two-stage vehicle capable of carrying up to 500 pounds (225 kilograms) to orbit for prices below $10 million.”

    If it is not well below “$10 million” ($20,000 per pound) it is hard to see where the market is. That cost makes ULA’s prices look like bargains.

  • Yeah, I noticed this as well. However, even if the cost isn’t much less, there might be an advantage in that a small satellite built by a university will not have to piggyback on a bigger rocket, and could schedule its own launch at its own convenience.

  • Joe

    I do not know what ULA would charge for such “piggy back” payloads (seriously do you have any idea of a source of such information), but I would bet it would be less than $10M. So the cost for Virgin Galactic would likely be more. That would leave as potential customers, payloads in the 500 lbs. (or less) category that would be willing (and able) to pay a premium (as in higher) price for the exclusive launch service.

    I assume that Virgin Galactic would have researched the possible market before making such an announcement, but I cannot figure out what it would be.

  • I’ve had conversations with a number of university professors who run programs teaching students how to build satellites. Their biggest problem is getting those satellites into orbit for the students. Often the problem is cost, but more often the problem is that there is no rocket aimed at launching smallsats. They must go piggyback, and when they do, they are at the mercy of others, which often leads to endless delays, or even the inability to get into space at all.

    I suspect that many of these university professors would be glad to pay a higher fee for the ability to guarantee a launch time. Not only would they get their own launch vehicle, but they wouldn’t have to worry as much about range issues using WhiteKnightTwo.

    The obvious next question is whether there is a big enough market here for Virgin Galactic. I believe there is. One of the things that has held back the nanosat market has been the lack of an appropriate launch vehicle. Virgin is now offering to provide that.

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