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I am now in the second week of my July fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black, celebrating its 14th anniversary. Thank you to everyone that donated so generously last week. I hope week two will do as well.


Your donations and subscriptions have allowed me the freedom and ability to analyze objectively the ongoing renaissance in space, as well as the cultural changes -- for good or ill -- that are happening across America. Four years ago, just before the 2020 election I wrote that Joe Biden's mental health was suspect. Only in the past two weeks has the mainstream media decided to recognize that basic fact.


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Space Force adds Stoke Space and Blue Origin to its list of smallsat launch companies

The Space Force has now added rocket startups Stoke Space and Blue Origin to its list of launch companies who are now approved to bid on launches of the military’s small satellites.

The two firms join 10 other vendors in the OSP-4 pool: ABL Space Systems, Aevum, Astra, Firefly Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Relativity Space, Rocket Lab, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and X-Bow.

This program is designed for launches that are not critical and can be used to help new rocket companies, while also encourage all the companies to move more quickly, as the contracts are designed to be require a launch within 12 to 24 months after award, and sometimes much sooner. For example, several recent Firefly launches required the company to deliver the payload to the assembly building and get it mounted in less than a few days, and to do so only when told by the military.

This military smallsat launch program is also wholly different than the Space Force’s large payload launch program, which presently only allows SpaceX, ULA, and Blue Origin to bid on launches. With both programs however it appears the military is no longer limiting the companies that can bid to as small a number as possible — which had been its policy for the first two decades of this century — but instead is eagerly expanding the number over time to increase competition and its own options. With the large payload program the Pentagon intends to revisit its list yearly to widen it as new companies mature.

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 print edition can be purchased at Amazon. Or you can buy it directly from the author and get an autographed copy.

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


  • pzatchok

    I wonder what would happen if Space X remade the single engine Falcon 1 and made sure it was reusable.

    Or a three engine Falcon 3,

    I think they would take everyone’s contracts with little trouble.

  • Rockribbed1

    Competition is healthy. Spacex doesn’t need to capture every niche of the market.

  • pzatchok

    No they do not have to.

    But what if they contracted to provide the rockets and basic tech for a new rocket company to operate maintain and fly.

    It would cut down on start up costs for the new company and really reduce the testing time since Merlin engines and tanks are already proven.

  • Edward

    pzatchok wrote: “I wonder what would happen if Space X remade the single engine Falcon 1 and made sure it was reusable. … I think they would take everyone’s contracts with little trouble.

    Rockribbed1 replied: “Competition is healthy. Spacex doesn’t need to capture every niche of the market.

    It is fun to speculate upon what could have been or what could be (Bobby Kennedy might have asked, “why not”*).

    Competition is healthy in a free market, but capturing every niche of the market would distract SpaceX from its focus, so it would be against SpaceX’s best interest to be the competition in every niche. Let others specialize and find their own efficiencies.

    Around the year 2000, Elon Musk decided it would be nice to explore Mars commercially; surely private enterprise could perform Mars exploration cheaper than NASA and JPL do. But he discovered that cheaper robotics still cost far too much to launch, so he decided to solve that part of the problem first. Reducing the cost to orbit has resulted in far more productivity in space than we had in the 20th century. Many more companies are now able to be profitable in space than ever before.

    Now that the launch cost is lower, Musk returned to the original problem of Mars exploration. His solution to the cost of exploration seems to be the colonization of Mars so that much more exploration can happen much faster. A side benefit is to make humanity multi-planetary, just in case someone starts a nuclear WWIII or global-climate-warming-Ice-Age-change turns out to be real and catastrophic (either increasing temperatures or the onset of the next Ice Age, as though humans lack the ability to adapt to new conditions, like those on Mars).

    Pursuing other goals, objectives, or niches risks losing focus. Starlink was formed in order to help finance colonization of Mars. Working on NASA’s lunar Human Landing System helps to finance several aspects of getting to and landing on Mars, with cargo and humans. Ocean-going launch and landing platforms, transmogrified from drilling rigs, may be needed in the future, but are likely an expensive distraction for right now.

    pzatchok wrote: “But what if they contracted to provide the rockets and basic tech for a new rocket company to operate maintain and fly.

    “Why not?” It is a good question. I suppose if airliners were used only once then thrown away, like most rockets, Boeing and Airbus would also be airline companies as well as the manufacturers. Stanley Kubrick, in his movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, had imagined Pan Am as an Earth-to-orbit shuttle operator, so maybe we will see similar niche markets arise in the future, and the manufacturers will sell rockets and spacefaring interplanetary craft to the companies that operate these markets. If these efficiencies work for air travel, why not for space travel, too?
    * “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

  • Edward: FYI, that quote you attribute to Bobby Kennedy was actually written by George Bernard Shaw, and came from the lips of the Devil. I think the play was “Man And Superman”.

  • Edward

    The Devil, you say?

    All these decades I thought it was a respected man saying something profound.

    Well, I suppose that Shaw counts as well-respected, too, but his play’s character: not so much.

    Looking it up, I find it attributed to both men, but finding who said it first was difficult. Shaw died in 1950, and Kennedy was born in 1925, and since the play was first produced in 1907, I think it is more probable that Kennedy borrowed it from Shaw’s Devil character.

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