Scroll down to read this post.


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:


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
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

January 19, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.

  • ULA plans 10 Vulcan launches in 2023
  • My count of total planned ULA launches in ’23 is 11, but that includes two Delta Heavy launches and five Atlas-5 launches. It seems a complete fantasy to expect ULA to complete 17 launches this year (10 of which will be the as yet unlaunched Vulcan), when ULA has never completed more than 16 in a single year, and that record was set in 2009, more than a decade ago. In fact, the company has never completed more than 8 launches in a year since 2016.






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.


  • Jeff Wright

    ULA probably won’t meet that goal…but they will still be around. The spooks like their own.

  • Mitch S.

    The story about the ArianeGroup owned rocket company is misrepresented by your link description.
    In the story the CEO of MaiaSpace says about ArianeGroup ownership:
    “So, I’m not going to lie about the fact that being a subsidiary of a large group also potentially has disadvantages. But I’m convinced the advantages this gives us are greater than these disadvantages.”

    What I find interesting is the difficulty MaiaSpace is having making reusable rockets economically viable.
    This after SpaceX has been making money with (partially) reusable rockets for years.
    The CEO says it’s related to the small scale of their rocket and they can make money when they relaunch the rocket as an expendable.
    Years ago when Musk/SpaceX announced their plans to recover/reuse Falcon stages I was skeptical.
    I thought by the time the cost of loss of payload due to extra weight of fuel needed for recovery and the need to make the rocket more robust for multiple reuse and the cost of inspecting/refurbishing were counted, it would be cheaper to make more single use rockets.
    But Musk turned that “conventional wisdom” on it’s head (and I find eating crow isn’t so bad if cooked the right way…).
    Will be interesting to see how long it takes SpaceX competitors to catch up.

  • Mitch S.

    About the Varda Space story. What’s the deal with space manufacturing these days?
    Is there stufff that can be more economically manufactured in space? Can it be done in a modestly sized spacecraft?
    I recall one of the selling points of ISS was the promise of developing manufacturing in space
    (“Pharmaceuticals and perfect ball bearings”)
    But while there is talk of adding modules for tourists I haven’t heard of any proposals for factory modules.

    ULA. Not so long ago 10 launches a year for a single company would have been a pretty impressive achievement. Times have changed.

  • Ray Van Dune

    The economic arguments against the reusability of rockets seem at first glance to be compelling. Obviously they are not. Does anyone know of an informed exposition of how SpaceX turned those arguments on their head?

  • Edward

    Mitch S.,
    Years ago when Musk/SpaceX announced their plans to recover/reuse Falcon stages I was skeptical. I thought by the time the cost of loss of payload due to extra weight of fuel needed for recovery and the need to make the rocket more robust for multiple reuse and the cost of inspecting/refurbishing were counted, it would be cheaper to make more single use rockets.

    My story of the time is a little different. In 2012 I had attended a talk by the then lead rocket engineer (Muller?) — not to be confused with the chief engineer, Musk — who had described reusing the booster and the upper stage. By the time of the 1990s, reusability was desired by some in the space business, the airliner analogy was already in use, so I was not very skeptical, but I thought that they would take longer to make it profitable, iterating for several years to make it work. In retrospect, the skipped and scrapped Starships and Boosters show us that SpaceX learns fast and iterates even faster.

    One of the reasons for my “pessimism,” in 2012, was that engineers were focusing on performance, the weight to orbit rather than the cost per pound.

    One of the reasons for my “hopefulness” was that we could already reuse Space Shuttle parts. Reusability was not impossible, it just had to be designed in. The X-Prize, announced in 1995, was all about reusability and rapid turnaround.

    SpaceX’s solution was to forgo higher performance in favor of lower cost per pound to orbit, which was the goal from its founding. SpaceX does many things very differently than the usual space company does them. The latest, and the one I am currently most worried about, is to forgo a flame trench at the Starship launch pad. After SLS launched, there was a picture of caved-in doors on the gantry elevator, due to the acoustics of the engines as they passed by. Starship launches with its acoustics reflecting directly back at the engine compartment of the booster stage, and I fear severe damage to the engines, equipment, or the bottom of the propellant tank in a way similar to the elevator doors.

    On the other hand, SpaceX has surprised me many times in the past with their methods and their designs, so we will have to see what happens in February or March when they launch Starship on her maiden experimental shakedown test voyage.

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 *