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General Atomics wins Air Force contract to build technology test lunar satellite

General Atomics yesterday announced that it has been awarded an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) contract to build a satellite to test a variety of technologies in near lunar space.

The AFRL Oracle spacecraft program is intended to demonstrate advanced techniques to detect and track objects in the region near the Moon that cannot be viewed optically from the Earth or from satellites in traditional orbits such as geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO). The anticipated launch date for the Oracle spacecraft is late 2025.

While this is good business for General Atomics, the company is not selling its product to the Air Force, but building what the Air Force wants, making the spacecraft government owned. This is how the space industry functioned in the United States for almost a half century after Apollo, generally accomplishing little for great cost. Much better in the long run if the military bought this kind of product from private companies, who developed it for profit and for sale not just to the military.

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.


  • MDN

    In general I agree, but major infrastructure typically starts as a government initiative and becomes a commercially outsourced resource once a viable private sector market emerges. And that does not always happen. This strikes me as quite analogous to building Air Traffic Control and Earth Orbit tracking and control, both of which are still primarily government driven because they must be 24/7/365 reliable and require regulation to constrain chaos. Weather and Earth Resource monitoring have moved past the government only model, but only because they are not as subject o these requirements and other lucrative customers for these services exist.

    With development on the moon an obvious Next Step we are going to pursue, establishing a good handle on orbital debris and vehicles we need to track in the region is a good idea. And with any luck they will find the Eagle too and we’ll have an opportunity to save it for capture and return to the Smithsonian some day.

  • George C

    Historically Dual Use technology was often the result of civilian initiative first. The Taxis of the Marne ran in WWI with the taxi meter running. Farm equipment was first to use what became tank tracks, 1904 Caterpillar. Aircraft, telephone, radio, all civilian first

    Of couse now we have big science and so often military funding first.

    But Dual Use is so very important even now for being cost effective and building industrial might. With ITAR and NOFORN controls of course.

    The subtle force is the ownership aspect that Zimmerman [Robert, not the WWI telegram guy] emphasized.

    Over time Dual Use and private ownership, initiative and risk are the only sustainable way to go.

  • pzatchok

    I wonder what secret tech the military needs to test in Lunar orbit that can not be tested in Earth orbit?

  • Mitch S.

    My guess is this is about the AF/Space Force tracking Chinese activity.
    They would want to keep knowledge of
    such capabilities closely held.

  • Max

    Everything that is dangerous and experimental will need to be tested in 0G of lunar orbit. New drugs and dangerous compounds, as well as experimentation with nuclear devices cannot be performed where there’s a possibility of falling back to earth and infecting earth. (Another Wuhan pathogen for example)
    But then you knew this, you asked the question to make people think… “what’s really going on?”
    Where private companies will build, improve, innovate, advance capabilities towards a particular goal using technologies developed just for this purpose thereby succeeding where none other has before…

    The military only concerns are how do we defend ourselves from threats, what new tools can we use for this purpose. How do we control the threat, and if control is not possible, how do we eliminate the threat. What is the enemy planning? And how do we counter that threat.
    An entirely different objective for different reasons. And there is no higher ground than lunar orbit. You cannot destroy a enemy you you cannot see.
    Military platforms in geosynchronous are vulnerable… Perhaps this is a checkmate move? My imagination tends to run away with me. Watching too many movies with AI in them lately.

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