Scroll down to read this post.


Without the support of my readers I could not keep doing this, not so much because of the need for income to pay the bills, but because it tells me that there are people out there who want me to do this work. If you wish to add your vote of support to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, you can do so 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. 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

Musk press conference on Starship/Superheavy launch

Yesterday Elon Musk held an hour-long audio press conference with a number of space reporters, broadcast over youtube. I have embedded that conference below, for those of my readers who wish to hear what Musk had to say, in his own words.

The key take-aways from Musk:

  • The launch was about what he expected
  • They will be ready to launch again in about two months
  • The debris “was really just basically sand and rock so it’s not toxic at all … it’s just like a sandstorm, essentially”
  • The biggest issue is making sure the flight termination system functions better.
  • The next flight will be a repeat, with the main goal getting to stage separation
  • He gives them an 80% chance of making orbit this year

When asked about obtaining the permit for that next flight, Musk side-stepped the question. It remains to my mind the largest obstacle for meeting his schedule.

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.


  • Alton

    Thanks for the feed…..

  • Edward

    Thank you for the link. It was informative.

    My other takeaways:

    — There was not much damage to the launch mount, and the tower is also in good shape. This means that it can be reused in a reasonable amount of time, and that they are doing well in figuring out how to protect the mount. They will be replacing some of the vertical propellant tanks in the tank farm with horizontal ones, but they had desired to go horizontal anyway.

    — They were being cautious with the engine startup, so they were on the pad for a couple of seconds longer than they expect operational flights to take. Obviously, this added to the damage to the pad under the launch mount.

    — The pressurization of the propellant tanks, using their own propellants ( ) rather than helium, worked very well. My takeaway is that they don’t have to take helium to Mars or the Moon, which is an important factor. This also means that they can save money on not buying increasingly expensive helium for each launch from Earth.

    — The reasons for engines shutting down was explained, except for the three initial engines, which were shut down because they were not healthy enough for the engine control unit to bring them to full thrust. He did not specify whether they thought this was due to debris damage, but they were shut down rather early, so I am beginning to think that debris may not have damaged the engines. I await further explanation.

    — As things began to deteriorate, starting about T+27 seconds, the engine controller continued to keep control, despite engine heat shields being knocked out on four engines — some kind of explosion, he said — and the loss of a fourth engine and visible fires.

    — As things continued to deteriorate through T+62 seconds, more aft heat shield damage, and at T+85 seconds, thrust vector control (TVC) is lost. The loss of the hydraulics is why TVC was lost, and without the hydraulics there could be no separation of Starship. Stage separation uses the hydraulics to operate. My takeaway is that the control software was robust and did a yeoman’s job of keeping it going through increasingly difficult conditions.

    — Super Heavy is designed with good engine isolation, meaning a failure of one engine does not adversely affect other engines, making for a reliable design. My takeaway is that the engine controller is able to successfully account for an engine failure and compensate with controls to the remaining engines.

    — Booster 9 and beyond are designed better than booster 7, so future launches should be more robust than booster 7. Many of us already know that SpaceX is using electrical TVC in the future, switching from booster 7’s hydraulic TVC. I suppose that stage separation will also be electric rather than hydraulic.

    — Apparently there was no throttle up after passing through max Q. It was not clear to me why this occurred — or rather didn’t occur. Was the controller unable to perform this function, and if so, why?

    — The speculation about what happened to the concrete of the launch pad was fascinating. However, they are not sure exactly how the concrete failed. They believe that the steel plate idea should be superior to the bare concrete design. The steel will extend beyond the mount to avoid damage elsewhere in future launches.

    — Because SpaceX is good at production (e.g. a Falcon upper stage built every three or four days and daily Raptor engine production), Starship and Super Heavy test units are able to be built quickly enough to keep a high cadence on test flights. I advocate for rapid development techniques, and high production rates help with the ability to perform rapid development.

    — Starship is now costing a couple of billion dollars per year, but Musk does not think they will need to raise funding for Starship. This suggests to me that each Falcon 9 launch makes a profit that approaches $25 million or $30 million.

    — If Starship is not successfully orbited by the end of the year (8 months), Musk is completely confident that it will orbit within twelve months.

  • Jeff Wright

    Having an outsider might be of use.

    Tim Marshall is both a storm chaser and an engineer who studies the effects of tornadoes upon buildings. Haig Engineering is in Texas…and they and Texas Tech might give a fresh perspective on the “rock tornado.”

  • Col Beausabre

    I do not have a high opinion of storm chasers. Particm chase, their truck blasted through a stop sign at 70 mph, colliding with fellow storm chaser Corbin Jaeger. All involved were killed” and. ” On March 28, 2017, a vehicle with two storm chasers from The Weather Channel, Kelley Williamson and Randall Yarnall, drove past a stop sign at an estimated speed of 70 mph and crashed into a car driven by Corbin Jaeger, of Phoenix, a 25-year-old storm spotter for the National Weather Service. All three men died instantly. While we can laugh it off as time for a collective Darwin Award, it’s no joke when the inevitable innocents die.

  • Jay

    Bob this was actually held on Twitter spaces and is exclusive content for Elon’s Twitter subscribers. If you subscribe you will be able to join in. He’s holding another Starship update for his Twitter subscribers in about 3 weeks.

  • mivenho

    The FTS issue is important, of course, but the elephant in the room seems to me to be the engine malfunction/failure rate.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Elon states that the booster’s “lean away” maneuver on liftoff was caused by the asymmetric thrust from the three non-functioning engines. I am not only puzzled by why engine gimbaling did not correct this, but even more by why you would WANT to correct it!

    I observed the same maneuver used by the Saturn 5, only there it was stated to be intended to avoid tower damage. So why not use such a maneuver by Starship, which moves the engines away from the tower, and does so without moving them directly over the rim of the launch table until they are higher up and further away from it?

    Is it possible that this accidental maneuver saved tower damage, and “correcting” it will create more of it?!

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 *