Scroll down to read this post.


My February birthday fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black it now over. I sincerely and with deep gratitude thank all those who donated. Without your support 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. For those who did not contribute during the campaign, please consider adding your vote of support to Behind the Black, 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

Northrop Grumman launches three military satellites using Minotaur rocket

Early this morning Northrop Grumman successfully used a former Minuteman rocket repurposed as a commercial rocket dubbed Minotaur to launch three military reconnaissance satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office.

The rocket’s solid-fueled stages were in themselves amazingly old.

The 69-foot-tall (21-meter) rocket is based on leftover solid-fueled motors from the U.S. Air Force’s Minuteman missile program. Designers added two Orion solid rocket motors on top of the lower two stages of a Minuteman missile to turn the bomb carriers into satellite launchers.

The Minotaur 1 rocket’s M55A1 first stage motor was cast with solid propellant in 1966 by Thiokol, now part of Northrop Grumman. The SR19 second stage motor, produced by Aerojet, was filled with its solid propellant in 1983, according to a Northrop Grumman spokesperson.

The age of the first stage means it is likely the oldest rocket motor ever used on a space launch.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

18 SpaceX
16 China
8 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman

The U.S. now leads China 26 to 16 in the national rankings.

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.


  • V-Man

    I thought solid propellant had a tendancy to sag after a few months/years and thus had an expiration date. Or is this just for the shuttle solid boosters?

  • mkent

    Early this morning Northrop Grumman successfully used a former Minuteman rocket repurposed as a commercial rocket dubbed Minotaur…

    Minotaur is not a commercial vehicle. It is a government-owned vehicle available only for government launches.

    This may have been the last flight of the Minotaur I. If so, it retires with a perfect 12 for 12 record. There’s a Minotaur IV launch scheduled for later this year, and I’m hearing perhaps one more launch for an unspecified Minotaur variant, but that will probably be it.

    If the new startups of Firefly and Virgin Orbit are successful, it’s going to be hard to justify Minotaur I’s $29 million price tag.

  • mkent

    I thought solid propellant had a tendancy to sag after a few months/years and thus had an expiration date. Or is this just for the shuttle solid boosters?

    Just for the ultra-large SRBs like the Shuttle and SLS boosters. ICBMs and SLBMs wouldn’t be of much use if they only had a shelf life of a few months.

  • Jim Schmidt


  • David M. Cook

    Some solid fuels are more solid than others. Estes black powder motors are hard/dry, but AeroTech composite rockets are more like rubber or a pencil eraser. I‘ve heard of an ICBM with “grains” like peanut butter, periodically scraped out & replaced with new goop!

  • Andi

    1966, and it still works – wow!

    When I was in college in the early 1970s, our department was offered the guidance control computer from a decommissioned Minuteman missile for the cost of shipping. That was a very interesting machine – its main memory was a rotating disc. No instruction address register – each instruction indicated the location (on the disc) of the next instruction. Instructions were not necessarily stored sequentially on the disc – some instructions took so long that by the time the instruction completed, the disc had spun quite a few sectors.

    Fascinating to think that the computer we had may have at one time sat on top of the rocket just launched!

  • Jay

    Funny you should mention that. My old physics teacher had the guidance system from a Minuteman missile in his barn. I remembered it was in an eight or ten sided frame, a little bit over three feet long laying on its side and about two feet tall. There were other electronics as well. I think he was trying to either get the components out for his electronics class he taught or trying to salvage the gold off the boards.
    Early on in his career he worked on the construction of the Minuteman silos. I assume that is where he got the guidance system from. I wonder what else he had from those sites…

  • Ron

    When I lived in a Nashville, TN I had a retired neighbor that I used to chat with, he and his wife loved our kids, sorta adopted grandparents. After about 3-4 years I was talking to him about space stuff (probably while we were having a beer and he was reloading) and he said, you do know I worked on the minuteman project don’t you? I had no idea. Anyway, he was a young man enlisted in the Air Force and just ended up there. Boeing end up sending him to college for an engineering degree and he worked on a bunch of the rockets that went to the moon!! I cannot remember which ones but he had a patch for them all framed in a shadow box. Best neighbors I’ve ever had!

  • Jeff Wright

    I like old tech. Less vulnerable…esp fom the 7Os

  • Col Beausabre

    After I retired from the Army, I went to work for IBM in the Hudson Valley. There were still some veterans of Federal Systems Division around and I encouraged them to tell stories of the early days.

    IBM Kingston at one time had 10,000 people working on SAGE, NORAD’s (and the world’s) first computerized air defense system. Each Sector Control computer was so big, they built an entire four story building around each of them – – today your watch probably has more computer power, but at the time they were the largest and most powerful computers ever built. All tubes of course, not even transistors soldered to cards.

    Of course, FSD was deeply involved in the manned space program – the primary on board computer for the Saturn launch vehicle was an IBM machine. Here’s a great video – – on it.

    It’s worth noting that NASA had IBM use magnetic core memory deep into the Shuttle program long after it had become obsolete for other applications, on the basis of “If ain’t broke don’t fix it” Magnetic cores had got NASA to the moon, they could fly the space shuttle

    As for gold, IBM Poughkeepsie had an operation dedicated to recovering the gold from machines that had been traded in or whose lease had expired. “Thar’s gold in them thar computers !”

  • wayne

    Great stories by all!

    “Minuteman – From Design To Delivery”
    USAF / Boeing (1963)

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 *