Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

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

SpaceX delays all launches while it investigates failed booster landing

Capitalism in space: In order to investigate the failure of the first stage to land successfully during the last Starlink satellite launch on February 15th, SpaceX has paused all further launches, with an expected delay overall of one to two weeks before launches resume.

Analysis by Scott Manley suggests during the re-entry burn (as the 1st stage re-entered the atmosphere) one of the engines had issues, causing the booster to break-up shortly before it hit the ocean.

When SpaceX was first attempting to land its first stages, the boosters would routinely crash, and the company would not slow its launch schedule because the boosters had still functioned as expected during launch. Nor was anyone disturbed by those failures nor did anyone expect SpaceX to pause further launches.

Things are different now. We have a high expectation that a Falcon 9 engine will relight and work every time, all the way back to its landing pad. Any failure later in the flight, even if the rocket got the payload into orbit, raises questions that must be answered. Hence the delay in further launches.

Overall, this higher expectation of success is a good thing. It says that we now expect rockets to be able to land successfully. And getting this problem fixed will only increase the chances that they will do so more reliably in the future.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Diane Wilson

    It’s not “expectations” of successful landings that caused the delay. “Flight-proven” boosters has become an essential part of the Starlink constellation, and of SpaceX in a broader sense as a satellite launch service. They’ve been getting by with a small pool of five used Falcon 9 vehicles, now reduced to four. Two of those four are nearing their tenth launch, at which point we can expect them to be taken out of service for major inspection and refurbishment. They really can’t afford another failed landing until more used Falcon 9s become available.

    There are other flight-proven boosters in SpaceX’s inventory, but they are contractually bound to be used for specific launches, and are not available for other use. I’ll guess that SpaceX will be reluctant to accept such contracts in the future.

  • Jeff Wright

    This is why I’ve liked the idea of fly-backs-less abuse on the engines.

  • Thank you, Diane Wilson.

  • Jeff Wright

    Musk is finally learning caution. He is like the bad Kirk, and needs a McCoy: “Jim-you’re pushing.” Bezos is good Kirk-and needed R. Lee Earmey’s boot. Mr. Bezos, the fly back booster from the wiki about Europe’ SHLL program has been done-they just need money. Oh, buy Fry’s electronics-the world is a more interesting place with them, Squadron hobbies and Toys R Us in it. Musk could have been cool and propped them up, but lost big on bitcoin-no doubt used by tax evaders, child-sex tourists, and gun and drug runners.
    It is like Poirot said: “If you place your head in the lion’s mouth, then you cannot complain if he happens to bite it off, no?”
    Now he has fifteen bil’ less to spend on Starship than he had a week ago. Madness!

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 *