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January 26, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.






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.


  • David Eastman

    Interesting how with Vulcan, which has had no prototype flights, no flow of multiple static fires, and had known engine problems up to the last round of testing, produced by a company with no flight production history, is still somehow proceeding on schedule to a March launch with no worries about launch licenses, etc.

  • john hare

    “””David Eastman
    January 26, 2023 at 6:09 pm
    Interesting how with Vulcan, which has had no prototype flights, no flow of multiple static fires, and had known engine problems up to the last round of testing, produced by a company with no flight production history, is still somehow proceeding on schedule to a March launch with no worries about launch licenses, etc.””””

    Might have something to do with it being in a similar size range with existing vehicles. Launched by a company with strong government tie ins. From a facility that is not breaking ground in a new area building from zero.

  • Max

    Related to the first article,

    The data mostly provided information about the weak magnetosphere that surrounds Venus

    There’s new claims that the earths core has slowed down and it’s turning slower than the surface.

    The first thing I wondered, if earths magnetic field is like a dynamo producing magnetism from the spinning of the core…
    Why didn’t earth magnetism go away when velocity is matched?
    Why didn’t the magnetic field reverse when it began turning slower?
    If the iron at the center is a permanent magnet, why hasn’t the heat destroyed its magnetism?
    Why doesn’t the magnetic pole circle true north as it’s slight tilt revolves with a slower speed?

    Something is not working the way the theory explains it.

    (can’t be a nuclear reactor at the center of the earth as the man on coast to coast explained tonight, you can’t block neutron radiation… underground heavy water tanks would have detected neutrons just as they detect atomic reactions/explosions and supernovas… Half of all neutrons that hit the earth pass right through…. wouldn’t we all be dead?)

  • Max

    When I was looking at the DARPA website, they are also working on a rocket engine;
    DARPA, NASA Collaborate on Nuclear Thermal Rocket Engine

    And a liquid lens for a space telescope.
    (it was rumored years ago the Cold War spy satellites had liquid lenses?)

  • Gary

    This site will help you find “The Green Comet” in your night sky. Will be 50,000 years until the next appearance!

  • Richard M

    The idea that Vulcan will launch in March is…just not tenable. ULA has a boatload of tests to run before that happens. I don’t think anyone in the industry expects it to go up before late spring – and that means it will have to launch after Starliner CFT mission, currently scheduled for late April (which I suspect, will slide a little further to the right, too), because it will use the same pad. (The good news is, the payload at least is ready – Astrobotic is shipping it to the Cape now.)

    A lot of Vulcan systems have been incorporated into recent Atlas V flights, so there is *some* heritage here to make Vulcan not quite a de novo launcher.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I have questions about the market share that Vulcan might ultimately command. It will be non-reusable for the foreseeable future, and even then only the main engines will be, after being reconditioned and installed in a new hull. It will have to compete against the highly reusable Falcon Heavy in its weight class.

    That might be a decent market while there anre only two heavy-lift rockets approved by DOD, but when/if the highly-reusable New Glenn also gets approved for DOD, Vulcan may have tough sledding. Not sure if DOD would want to spread the market among three boosters or only two.

    ULA might survive on 1/2 or 1/3 of the DOD market, but in in the commercial market, a straight-up cost comparison SpaceX would seem to win every time. After all, Vulcan and New Glenn are just Falcon Heavy equivalents, all partially reusable (with Vulcan the least).

    What am I missing here?

  • Patrick Underwood

    Ray Van Dune, I would be extremely skeptical that this so-called “SMART” engine reuse system will ever fly. So far it’s just a very weak and transparent counter-SpaceX marketing ploy.

  • Ray Van Dune: Amazon has saved Vulcan, AND Arianespace’s Ariane 6, by throwing a lot of launches their way for its Kuiper constellation. As this is a Bezos company, money grows on trees, and so it doesn’t mind paying more per launch.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Bob said: “Amazon has saved Vulcan, AND Arianespace’s Ariane 6, by throwing a lot of launches their way for its Kuiper constellation.”

    1500 sats is a lot, but Kuiper cannot be a sustaining market, especially if it has to be shared by Vulcan, A6, and New Glenn, with a view toward getting the constellation up asap.

    So Vulcan has to capture more business, but it just doesn’t seem like the way of the future, what with a high-build-complexity but throw-away hull, and at this point dubious partial reusability.

    Seems like ULA’s idea of market adaptability is being able to use a lot of different combos of strap-on boosters!

    “Back to the future!”… or more accurately, “Forward to the past!!”

  • Ray Van Dune

    Patrick said: “I would be extremely skeptical that this so-called “SMART” engine reuse system will ever fly.”

    News flash, Patrick! ULA’s reuse approach has been renamed. Used to be “SMART” for “Sensible, Modular, Autonomous Return Technology”.

    Now renamed to “DUMB” for “Don’t Understand how to Make it Better”!

  • Patrick Underwood


  • Richard M

    Like everyone else, I have difficult seeing a long-term path of independent survivability for ULA, but I think it has to be said that the next 5-6 years looks pretty good for them. On the cost side of the ledger, Vulcan-Centaur is going to be much more cost effective for them to build and operate than Atlas V and Delta IV have been. On the income side, they already have enough contracted launches from DoD and Amazon to fill out a really robust manifest for quite a while.

    We don’t know price points on Vulcan or these other new vehicles (Neutron, New Glenn, Terran R) coming online yet, but the one thing we do know is that Vulcan has one important advantage over them: by this summer, it will actually have *launched.* It will be a real launcher with a real flight record, and a long record for organizational reliability. So it will have a head start in the “Not SpaceX” medium/heavy launch market. If you’re NASA and hoping to spread your launch business around again for upcoming bids over the next couple of years, or you are the Space Force (which prioritizes reliability and precision over price) figuring out how to assign your awards for NSSL Phase 3, or you are a competing LEO constellation operator who doesnt want to give your money to SpaceX, that will matter. The only wild card is whether Blue Origin and AJR can keep supplying ULA with engines at the cadence they are gonna need (20+ launches per year).

    In the long run, I think it will struggle to compete on price and flexibility with these new entrants. But I guess that’s a bridge Tory Bruno or his successor can worry about crossing when they get to it.

  • Ray Van Dune

    It looks to me like Blue Origin has yet to learn to build the BE-4 “to rate”. With no ability to recover / reuse engines in the short term, a strong engine supply stream is going to be absolutely vital to ULA.

    The realities of the USSF and NASA markets probably do mean an assured share in the short term for ULA, but there are a lot of companies out there that want to eat somebody’s lunch with their next-gen of full-sized vehicles, and neither ULA nor BO have ever struck me as particularly hungry. It feels like the complacent are still being held back by the inept!!

  • Jeff Wright

    Not the smartest fuel Robert?

    How many Centaurs have flown?

  • Edward

    Ray Van Dune asked: “What am I missing here?

    I suspect that Vulcan is going to turn out to be a stepping stone to a more reusable rocket. SpaceX has shown that reusability is not only practical but wildly beneficial. Each launch can be performed for lower cost and the boosters are available for future launches, allowing for a dramatically increased cadence. This increased cadence is the main benefit that Rocket Lab envisions for its reusable rockets. Rocket Lab does not think that reusing their smaller, Electron, rocket will save money, but they do think that it will allow them to have more rockets available for launch for a higher cadence. Their Neutron rocket, however, is expected to be reusable and to save on manufacturing costs, too.

  • Edward

    Jeff Wright asked: “Not the smartest fuel Robert? How many Centaurs have flown?

    Several Centaurs have flown, but at what cost? Centaurs have flown on a few different boosters, but these all have taken payloads to orbit at a high price per pound (order of magnitude: $10,000 per pound). Falcon does not use hydrogen and is able to put payloads into orbit for a much lower price per pound, and Starship is expected to put payloads into orbit for a significantly lower price.

    If performance is desired for a rocket then hydrogen is the way to go, but if economics is an issue then hydrogen is a problem. It is similar to the difference between a high performance dragster and a regular family sedan.

  • Jay

    So ULA has flown Centaur-IIIs, and the Vulcan will have the new Centaur-V. It is using two RL-10 engines, instead of one. ULA and other websites list the new numbers of the V vs. the III. Of course it is better. To answer your question Jeff, none, the Centaur-V has not flown yet.
    Yes, ULA has looked into a reusable Vulcan and I am sure they are working on it, but right now they are using the disposable Vulcan. One concept of theirs I saw was parachuting the engines into the sea.

  • Edward

    As he has done in the past, Jeff Wright is suggesting that hydrogen is a superior fuel, as it gives an excellent specific impulse, which is why the Centaur series of upper stages and Saturn upper stages used it. Specific impulse is analogous to fuel efficiency. However, Robert is correct that hydrogen is difficult to handle. It is also expensive to handle. At least one of the SLS delays was due to hydrogen being so difficult to handle, and NASA even had to send a crew to the SLS pad on the actual launch day to correct a leak in the hydrogen system. Had the crew been unable to rectify that problem then SLS would have been delayed yet again.

    Blue Origin’s New Glenn, SpaceX’s Starship, and at least three other launch vehicles are being developed to use methane as a fuel, because it gives good performance with less trouble and at lower handling expense. Since the object of the exercise is to reduce the price tag to get a pound, a ton, or more to orbit rather than to maximize the weight delivered per launch, hydrogen is not the best choice, and it will not be the best choice until the handling costs become competitive with methane or RP1 (refined kerosene).

    Hydrogen upper stages have been popular in the past, but back then the commercial customers — who are the ones most concerned about launch costs — were a small minority, and they did not drive the designs of the launch vehicles. These days, commercial customers are becoming the majority, and they are successfully influencing launch vehicle designs. These days, the free market is causing competition for the least expensive ways to get to orbit, and the capitalists are investing heavily in the most competitive designs. This is as it should be.

    The customer base, the commercial payload community, is similarly competitive, and the capitalists are also beginning to seek and invest in the most competitive designs of the satellites and their missions. Again, as it should be. We are approaching the two-thirds of a century mark in the space age, and only in the past decade have we begun to do business in space the way that history shows is the most efficient way to do business, at least that we have found so far.

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