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My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four 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.


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Starship/Superheavy update

Link here. SpaceX is moving on several fronts in preparation for the next Starship/Superheavy tests:

  • Engines have been installed in Starship prototype #20 which will be tested this week
  • A new Raptor engine factory is under construction
  • Launch tower construction continued
  • Future prototypes continue to be built

Lots of details and videos at the link. Based on road closures, the prototype #20 static fire test will occur today, and will be the first such test on a Starship using orbital Raptor engines.

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


  • geoffc

    The entire aspect of ‘catching a booster’ with Mechazilla, is utterly insane, and they are about to install the catcher onto the launch tower. These people are coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs, and it is awesome to watch!

  • geoffc

    Someone tried to make a render of what Mechazilla is going to look like. Based on the parts we have seen, it looks reasonable as a render. Just crazy as an idea! Yee ha!

  • Christopher Lopes

    “Just crazy as an idea!”

    That is the SpaceX story in a nutshell.

  • V-Man

    The first successful catch is going to *blow* our collective mind.

    Catch #100 is going to be like the hundredth Falcon 9 landing — “this never gets old.”

    By catch #1000, catch towers are going to be as common as launch pads are today.

  • MDN

    I was initially skeptical of the catch on landing concept too. However Elon noted a significant consideration driving this decision in one of his talks, and that is that it stresses the booster in TENSION, not compression as landing with legs does. This is much preferred structurally since the tanks are empty and could “crinkle” pretty easily. Another benefit of coarse is that it saves a lot of weight and the complexity a landing leg system. Finally, watching the Falcon 9 landings for 2 years now I also note that they CONSISTENTLY land within just 1-2 meters of the target circle so they have the tracking and flight control tech totally figured out.

    What impressed me from this article is that SpaceX is already up to number 78 in Raptor engines built (not even counting RVacs!). I looked it up and Rocketdyne only built 46 RS-25s for the entire Shuttle program, are now executing a contract for an additional 18 over the next 8 years to support the SLS program, and this program expends the engines on each and every flight while Raptor is designed to fly many, many times. THAT illustrates the futility of NASA’s dinosaur “Big Space” thinking in a nutshell.

  • Jeff Wright

    You want to keep hydrolox going just as American exceptionalism. I worry the grid fins might curl a bit…maybe a water hammer due to engine count. I would love to see one winged Super Heavy.

  • Questioner

    This is an important question (aside Musk’s Mars plans):

    “Is There Demand for Starship? | Starship Series Ep. 1”

  • Edward

    Nice video. I agree with its statement that its timeline is conservative. I suspect that Starship will become operational sooner than the video’s timeline and that it will be man-rated sooner. The Artemis plan is that Orion return people to Earth, so Starship’s reliability on reentry, rapid flip, and landing will not be needed as soon as 2024, but SpaceX will be working hard on that reliability for the dearMoon project, which they still want to do in 2023. I think that it will be performed before the 2026 timeline in the video.

    Another conservatively estimate on the part of the video is its assumption that Starship will remain a 100-ton launcher. SpaceX believes that its current expectations for Starship performance (including Raptor engines) are low and that they will be able to get better performance from the Starship-Super Heavy system. Better performance translates into fewer refueling launches for translunar and solar system voyages. Of course, this would also translate into fewer launches to achieve the same goals mentioned in the video, but that just makes space travel that much less expensive.

    Space tourism is really taking off (yes, pun intended), so I expect many, many manned tourism flights shortly after the dearMoon mission is complete (orbital, translunar, maybe even onto the lunar surface). So this would partially offset launch reductions due to the increased performance.

    I suspect that due to the need to verify long voyages to Mars and back, SpaceX will launch a few Starships in the early years as test platforms for their long duration requirements, and these may be able to perform the same tasks as space stations until other companies get their own independent space stations into orbit.

    Once Mars has its first settlement, the ability for Starship to return people from Mars makes that planet yet another tourist trap. Can you imagine Hiltons and MacDonalds on Mars and the Moon? Would you like fries with that?

    I like that the video shows a justification for a (surprisingly?) large number of Starship flights over the course of the decade.

  • Questioner


    It will be interesting to see what effect the availability of Starship with extremely low launch costs of a few hundred dollars / kilogram has on the commercial satellite market – especially on the many small new launch vehicles – whether these are pushed out of the market or not?

  • Gary

    This story from CNBC seems a bit alarming. Not sure if it is sensationalist reporting; if Musk is trying to light a fire under the employees; if it is genuinely a threat of something of all of that.

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