Scroll down to read this post.


Please consider supporting my work here at Behind the Black. I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands. Instead, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.


You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:


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


You can also support me by buying one of my books, as noted in the boxes interspersed throughout the webpage or shown in the menu above. And if you buy the books through the ebookit links, I get a larger cut and I get it sooner.

SpaceX launches commercial radio satellite with reused Falcon 9

Capitalism in space: SpaceX tonight successfully launched a Sirius-XM commercial radio satellite using its Falcon 9 rocket.

The first stage, making its third flight, successfully landed on the drone ship in the Atlantic. Note too that this launch took place only three days after SpaceX’s previous launch. Watching it take place, I was struck by how completely routine everything seemed. While rocketry will never be easy, SpaceX now makes it look so, and they do so because, unlike all other rocket companies, they did not stop upgrading and improving their rocket once it became somewhat reliable. Instead, they focused on making it more reliable than any rocket ever by making it reusable. That effort has now paid off, giving them a rocket that works like clockwork, practically every time.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

18 SpaceX
15 China
8 Russia
2 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 24 to 15 in the national rankings.

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 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


  • Jeff Wright

    Add Russia and China together and they’re one up.

  • Dick Eagleson

    The entire U.S. is, yes. Even SpaceX, by itself, is only five launches behind that pair at this point. Both the U.S. and SpaceX seem likely to make additional gains anent the combined total for NewAxis by month’s end and even more in July. By year’s end, SpaceX, alone, may be as many as a half-dozen launches ahead of NewAxis for the year and the U.S., as a whole, ahead by two dozen or more. ZimmerBob is looking to be on more and more solid ground with his prediction that 2021 will see the U.S. eclipse its Cold War/Apollo Era annual launch record of 70 set in 1966.

  • Gary in Transit

    Number of launches is significant, but tonnage to earth orbit and tonnage beyond earth orbit might be better measures of the comparitive functional significance of each countries space program.

  • Gary in transit: Tonnage to orbit doesn’t matter that much if you comparing SpaceX to Russia or China, as their rockets are mostly comparable. It only matters significantly if you want to compare the smallsat rocket companies, like Rocket Lab, with either other nations or with the companies like SpaceX that launch larger payloads.

    Personally I don’t think it matters that much even then. The capability to launch I think is a much more important measure. Companies that succeed in doing it will eventually scale up to match their competitors, as Rocket Lab is now doing.

  • Gary in Transit

    Bob..thanks for your explanation.

  • Richard M

    SpaceX now has more orbital launches in the first 5 months of 2021 than United Launch Alliance has had in the last 36 months.

  • Jeff Wright

    70 in 1966.

    The year I was born. I was almost 3 at the Moon landing. Born Sept 22 nine months after Korolev died…

  • Dick Eagleson

    G in T,

    You actually make a valid point. And, in mass terms, the U.S. lead over both Russia and China is much more lopsided than its lead in launch count. With all due respect to ZimmerBob, total mass to orbit matters. A standard 60-bird F9 load of Starlink satellites, for example, weighs 15.6 metric tons or 17.2 imperial tons. SpaceX has launched a dozen such payloads thus far this year, plus one mission that traded some rideshare birds for part of the Starlink load. That payload weighed 14 metric tons or 15.5 imperial tons.

    With apologies to the late Tennessee Ernie Ford:

    You launch 17 tons and what do you get?
    Another 60 birds and more Internet.

    Most of China’s launches are of venerable Long March 2- & 3-series rockets which have much less payload capacity than the Falcon 9. China has launched just one payload this year that masses more than a standard F9 load of Starlink sats, the 22.6 metric ton Tianhe core module of its new Tiangong space station.

    Russia, likewise, launches mainly the venerable Soyuz rocket. The only payload Russia is expected to launch this year which is heavier than a standard F9 load of Starlink sats will be the 20.3 metric ton Nauka ISS module.

  • David Eastman

    Three days between launches and drone ship landings. Has SpaceX gotten the whole cycle down that fast, with the booster back to port and the ship back out to sea that quickly, or did they use a different drone ship?

  • Edward

    Gary in Transit Wrote: “Number of launches is significant, but tonnage to earth orbit and tonnage beyond earth orbit might be better measures of the comparitive functional significance of each countries space program.

    Number of launches, number of satellites or probes launched, tonnage launched, data returned, goods or services rendered, etc. are all reasonable measures of the functional significance of the use of space, and we occasionally do a little debate on them. The number of launches is the most reliable number that we can get, as the weight of payloads is not always known. Do we want to include propellant weight, and if not then how do we subtract it out?

    We know that in the 1960s more rockets launched were smaller than there are today. The tonnage back then was less than over the past decade. Starting in the 1970s, there was a movement from smaller satellites and probes to larger ones, as each one could perform more tasks and be more useful. These days, the movement is in the other direction, where a large constellations of smaller satellites are performing more — and doing it better — than the few larger satellites. Smaller satellites are more affordable, and with the return of the small launch rockets, they can be put into specific orbits to perform specific tasks at an affordable price, allowing for more and more companies, countries, and universities to join in on the action that was mostly enjoyed by large countries with large space programs.

    Large number of rockets or not, massive tonnage or not, we should be seeing more and more functional usage of space in the coming decade. Measuring that usage will remain difficult, but as more commercial operations come online, we may be able to approximate it with total revenues from space companies, whether they perform services on orbit or analyze space data after it arrives on Earth, and with goods coming from space, we should see improvements to our lifestyles and health.

    David Eastman asked: “Three days between launches and drone ship landings. Has SpaceX gotten the whole cycle down that fast, with the booster back to port and the ship back out to sea that quickly, or did they use a different drone ship?

    SpaceX has both drone ships in the Atlantic, now, and its CRS 22 launcher had a boost back burn that brought it to a drone ship that was closer to Canaveral than usual, reducing its turnaround time. So the answer is a little of both: two drone ships occasionally able to operate with a faster cycle time.

    SpaceX may be choosing to not land boosters on land, in some cases, because a return to launch site means that, for safety reasons, Canaveral Air Force Station (apparently not a Space Force Station) shuts down a lot of its operations during the return.

  • geoffc

    @David Eastman – they rotate the two ASDS barges. They need about 2-3 days for transit in and out. What they have done is get the unloading going much faster.
    They fold the legs, while on the barge, mounted on the Octagrabber, then pick the stage up, and right onto a carrier vehicle, then the ASDS gets serviced and is soon ready to go out for another mission.
    A Shortfall of Gravitas is nearing completion (Someone found Marmac 302 being prepped in a Louisianna shipyard) and Of Course I Still Love You, looks like it is getting bumpers added to its wings for a trip through the Panama Canal to be the West Coast barge.

  • Edward

    I wrote: “(apparently not a Space Force Station)

    Nope, I got that wrong. It has been a Space Force Station since December, six months ago.

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 *