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 successfully launches South Korean military satellite

Falcon 9 first stage after landing

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched a South Korean military satellite, with its Falcon 9 rocket using the same first stage that launched two American astronauts to ISS less than two months ago.

This was the company’s fastest turnaround yet of a used first stage, 51 days, which also beats the fastest turnaround ever by the shuttle program, 54 days. And as you can see by the screen capture image to the right, they successfully landed it so that it can be used for a third time.

Watching the camera on that first stage after separation (on SpaceX’s live stream) to landing was most fascinating. After separation its tail end points down to the west and its launch site in Florida. As it curves upward and then down towards its landing in the Atlantic, its small thrusters and grid fins very slowly and gracefully swing that tail to instead point east and down to the drone ship. I had not noticed previously the gentleness of that re-positioning. The daylight clear weather today, plus excellent camera access, made it very obvious.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

16 China
11 SpaceX
7 Russia
3 Japan

The U.S. now leads China in the national rankings, 18 to 16.

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.


  • Don

    Both fairings caught too.

  • Todd Brown

    I didn’t hear that… That’s Great news.
    What a successful mission.
    And as Robert mentioned to have only a 51 day turnaround for the first stage is phenomenal.

  • John

    One of these days. Space x will buy a $50.00 camera instead of the $10.00 camera they use for the live booster landing.

  • MDN


    I suggest you consider the challenge of instrumenting a camera to operate in close proximity (i.e. less then a 100 feet) in the blast zone of an operating rocket engine. Yeah NASA gave us great closeups of the Saturn V lighting off, but only from the side as the exhaust vented out through massive ducts, not IN the exhaust.

    If SpaceX landed on a gridded deck With diverter plates underneath or something vs the flat plate they have, it would be easier. But try and imagine standing in the deflected exhaust of a 747 at full throttle and you get a sense of the challenge. This is a VERY high speed and energetic event with extremely high sound pressure levels, and electronics while reliable in general are sensitive to such extremes.

  • David

    It’s not actually the camera that has issues, they always release the recorded footage later and it’s perfectly clear. It’s the satellite dish trying to maintain lock while the barge gets buffeted by up to 300,000lbs of exhaust thrust that’s the issue. And while it’s a solvable issue if they threw enough money at it, it’s certainly not worth it just to get the footage live, as opposed to a few days later.

    And of course, contrast the video presentations we get from SpaceX to what you get from virtually anyone else, and there is no comparison.

  • A. Nonymous

    StarLink transmitters are supposed to be phased-array in addition to having a physical motor, right? Hopefully that will help fix the issue, once they have enough coverage.

  • John

    I hear what all of you are saying about the camera, (different answers) but if they can put a man on the moon……….

  • Ray Van Dune

    Has anybody seen video of the Octograbber (?) crawling out from its shelter and locking down the booster?

  • Edward

    John pondered: “I hear what all of you are saying about the camera, (different answers) but if they can put a man on the moon……….

    It really depends upon the priorities. It is probably better use of resources to not work too hard on this minor, but annoying, problem.

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 *