Scroll down to read this post.


I am now in the third week of my annual February birthday fund-raising drive. The first two weeks were good, but not record-setting.


There are still two weeks left in this campaign however. If you have been a regular reader and a fan of my work and have not yet donated or subscribed, please consider doing so. I take no ads, I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands (most of the time). Thus, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.


You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:


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

Iran and China complete orbital launches

Iran's launch December 6, 2023
Iran’s Salman rocket lifting off today.
The launch site itself was not disclosed.

According to the official state-run press of each country, both Iran and China yesterday completed successfully launches, both of which appeared to test new capabilities of some note.

First Iran announced that it had used its Salman rocket to put a 500-kilogram capsule that it said was carrying biological samples, and was also “has the ability to carry a human,” though the mass of this capsule makes that highly unlikely. Little other information was provided. Nor has this orbital launch as yet been confirmed by the orbital monitoring services of the U.S. military. The image to the right is a screen capture from the launch video at the link, and appears to show that this rocket has only one stage, thus making an orbital launch impossible.

Assuming this orbital launch is confirmed, it was Iran’s second orbital launch in 2023 and will therefore not show up on the launch race leader board below. If further information is obtained I will update this post appropriately.

China in turn announced the successful launch today of a test satellite, using its new Smart Dragon-3 solid-fueled rocket lifting off from a barge in the South China Sea 1,300 nautical miles off the coast of Guangdong province, where Hong Kong is located. To arrive at this ocean launch location took five days. The launch thus tested the use of this mobile floating platform from remote ocean locations.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

89 SpaceX
56 China
16 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches, 101 to 56, and the entire world combined 101 to 90. SpaceX by itself now trails the rest of the world (excluding other American companies) 89 to 90, though it has another launch planned for tonight, with the live stream here.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • David Eastman

    Salman is the second stage of the Qased rocket. I can’t find a good diagram, and the image above is different from the image shown for the original Noor satellite launch, so it’s impossible to say for sure how it works. But that payload fairing is substantially larger than the previous version, so I assume the second (and possibly third) stages are inside the fairing. It’s also possible that what looks like a fairing is actually the second stage, note the horizontal black line, it could be that below that is the upper stage, and the payload is just in the cone at the top.

  • Jeff Wright

    What I worry about is a simple gun-type warhead with chaff, a warhead of stealth facets and a proximity fuse.

    Israeli incoming might hit the shroud, or trigger a proximity fuse…Iran settling for an EMP strike.

  • Questioner

    To my knowledge, Iran does not have a launch vehicle to carry 500 kg to orbit. I believe this was only a suborbital flight, as indicated by the stated summit altitude of 130 km. There is no stable orbit at this altitude. It is therefore very likely that the author of the original article is wrong (note to Mr. Zimmerman!). According to my research, there is no Iranian orbital rocket named Salman either. As others have pointed out, a second stage has this name.

  • pzatchok

    That is not a Salman solid rocket in the picture.

    By all the details in the picture that is a Shahab-3. The fins match, the body match, the engines match, and that does not look like solid fuel exhaust.
    That red line up the side is just painted black on a regular Shahab-3.

    Its just a bulky capsule adapter on top. Like the falcon9 and others use.

  • pzatchok

    By reducing the Shehab-3 cargo down to 500 kg from 1200kg it might give it a way for a soft parachute recovery system and an added larger diameter adapter.

    Its all for show as far as I am concerned.

  • pzatchok: What I have not been able to determine is whether it made orbit, even if that orbit was low (80 miles) and would decay relatively rapidly. If it did then this was an orbital launch. If not, then I must remove it from my count.

    I have been searching for some indication one way or the other, but have not found it. Anyone out there know more?

  • pzatchok

    They could have used a Qased rocket but those are three stages using both liquid and solid fuel sections.

    But they look quite a bit different than what is in the picture.

  • pzatchok

    No one seems to have confirmed it yet but this sight hints that Iran does not yet have any recovery systems available for any space craft. No heat shields or parachutes capable of bring an orbital vehicle back safe.

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 *