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

SpaceX launches and lands 1st stage for record 10th time

During a launch yesterday of another sixty Starlink satellites, the first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully completed its tenth flight, a new record for such boosters.

The turnaround time for this booster is noted at the link, and shows that they have been steadily shortening that time to less than two months.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

14 SpaceX
12 China
7 Russia
2 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 19 to 12 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. All editions can also be purchased direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets 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.


  • eddie willers

    Musk had quite a week!

  • geoffc

    And another launch in just 6 days scheduled. Starlink 26 (out of order from 27 reported above) is scheduled for May 15. And 27 was just a few days after the previous rate!

    14 launches so far. Almost 10% of their entire launch history in the last 100 days! Amazing.

    And all boosters in those 14 are reused. No new ones flown yet in 2021.

  • wayne

    Elon Musk Monologue – SNL

  • geoffc

    Alas the SNL stuff was pretty terrible. I would say Wayne Gretzky level of terrible. (Great hockey player, NOT an actor. Same for Musk, great CEO, great at starting billion dollar companies, not an actor).

    I wish him well, perhaps not as an actor.

  • Col Beausabre

    Bob, When you post the US national ratings (and other countries if they have separate launch groups) could you break out the complete list who underlies the the national total. I can figure out sixteen of the nineteen USlaunches, but am drawing a blank on the other three.

    And wouldn’t it be a hoot if SpaceX beats China to the moon….

  • Col Beausabre: I stop listing all the launches once the numbers get high enough and the trailing competitors only have only one launch or so. To list them all so you can see the full totals would make this list too long, at least from my perspective.

    If you want to answer your question about the other three U.S. launches, do a search on BtB for “launch race”. This will give you all my updates since the start of the year. You need only scroll back to when those other launches occurred.

  • Steve Richter

    I still do not understand why SpaceX does not try to bring the 2nd stage back for a soft landing. If there was enough fuel to quickly slow the craft down could it land in one piece? Since Starship will be able to deorbit itself and land, does that mean a SpaceX 2nd stage could theoretically do the same?

  • Jeff Wright

    Starship is the only second stage worth the effort to bring back. The Kistler two-stage trashcan would have.

  • James Street

    I enjoyed Elon Musk’s SNL monologue. Autism is his superpower.

    It was a fascinating glimpse at his mother. Parents (or lack thereof) play a pivotal role in a child’s success (or failure).

  • Steve Richter

    “… Starship is the only second stage worth the effort to bring back. …”

    what is the effort? Carrying the extra fuel needed to slow the craft down? Looking to understand why SpaceX has not even tried to land a 2nd stage.

  • Steve Richter: SpaceX initially considered seeing if it could return the second stage of the Falcon 9, and abandoned the effort when they did a cost benefit analysis. Instead, Musk and the company shifted its development effort to Starship/Superheavy, beginning with reusability right from the start. They will not only get a bigger rocket, they will get more capability for less.

  • Edward

    Steve Richter asked: “what is the effort? Carrying the extra fuel needed to slow the craft down? Looking to understand why SpaceX has not even tried to land a 2nd stage.

    The effort: is to put reentry heat shielding on the stage where it is needed. Adding legs is another effort; this may seem simple, but finding hard points on the tanks could be tricky, depending upon whether the middle bulkhead between the tanks is located in a usable place.

    The cost: every pound added to the upper stage, including the fuel needed for landing, reduces one pound of payload capacity.

    If the Falcon 9 had a long life ahead of it, then there could be an argument for reducing the capacity in order to reduce the overall cost, but since Starship is likely to make most Falcon 9 launches obsolete, it is unlikely that the effort would be cost effective.

    Notice how differently Starship is designed than the Falcon 9 upper stage. Designing a reusable upper stage from scratch allows for a cost/benefit analysis from the beginning, allowing for time to design reusability into the craft rather than retrofit it later. Payload capacity can be less affected that way. The necessary tradeoffs and compromises can be considered early in development rather than after it is too late to make appropriate changes. This is one reason why Starship will reenter and land in a completely new way than any other spacecraft. They get to design these efficiencies into the spacecraft from the beginning.

  • Edward

    I forgot an important cost for Steve Richter’s question. Working on a reusable second stage takes up engineering talent that could be used on other projects, such as Starship or Crew Dragon. It is a lost opportunity cost.

    When running a company, it is important to spend research and development money on areas that will or are most likely to generate revenue, especially the most revenue, or to reduce the cost of operations. A reusable second stage should reduce the cost of operations, but even if the break even point is within the life expectancy of the Falcon 9, the effort may be more wisely spent on Starship, whose break even point could be within just a few years. This kind of thinking went into the decision to make and to continue making Falcon Heavy, which cost about half a billion dollars, but it has not yet launched enough times to have reached the break even point.

    An important question is whether or not Falcon Heavy was worth the effort, not just for the break even point, but did they learn enough about rocketry for it to have been worth the distraction from Starship?

    Starlink, on the other hand, probably is worth the effort. Not only does it involve satellite and communication engineers rather than rocket engineers, but at a price of $100 per month, the annual revenue for every million customers is $1.2 billion. If they only sign up two million customers, then Starlink’s first shell could break even in a single year. Starlink could be a bigger cash cow than Starship.

    But Starlink has also supplied SpaceX with a lot of experience in operating on a high launch cadence, with fourteen launches this year.

    Another important question: if Falcon Heavy has not been a big money maker, then why would Starship be a better launcher? The answer is that Starship is being made to cost less than a Falcon 9, even with a reusable upper stage, so Starship should become popular even if it does not often launch near full capacity.

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 *