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

Starship update: Prototype #10 being readied for launch

Link here. Not only have the engines been installed on the tenth Starship prototype, the static fire test is set for this week, maybe as early as today. It appears they are trying to launch the next test flight before the end of February.

At landing they will now fire all three engines, in case one or more fail to light (as happened with prototype #9), and then shut down all but one immediately and let that do the landing burn. This adds redundancy and increases the odds of a successful landing.

The article also provides a detailed update on the status of future Starship and Super Heavy test articles. While #11 is being readied for launch, it appears that, based on what has been learned from #8 and #9, they are dismantling prototypes #12-14 and incorporating changes to #15, which will likely fly after #11.

One aspect of this development program struck me today. These prototypes are essentially expendable rockets. Like it did with its early expendable Falcon 9, SpaceX is using these throw-away prototypes to test ways to make them more reusable and reliable. Unlike the Falcon 9s, however, the company isn’t using these prototypes to launch payloads, at least not at this stage. It isn’t good enough that these prototypes can successfully launch. They must be able to land as well.

I suspect that once during this test program the full rocket begins to reach orbit SpaceX will add payloads, even as they continue to test re-entry and landing. The early flights might produce rockets that successfully bring satellites into space but end up getting destroyed upon return. Those loses will then be used to make later ships better and more likely to return intact.

Eventually, we will have a rocket entirely reusable and flying multiple times, just like the Falcon 9 first stage.

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.


  • wayne

    “It’s a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes”
    Jeffery Tucker 2011

    “The Jetsons’ world is our world: explosive technological advances, entrenched bourgeois culture, a culture of enterprise that is the very font of the good life. But there is one major difference, and it isn’t the flying car, which we might already have were it not for the government’s promotion of roads and the central plan that manages transportation. It is this: we also live in the midst of a gigantic leviathan state that seeks to control every aspect of our life to its smallest detail.
    The government is still Flintstones, an anachronism that operates as this massive drag on our lives. With its money manipulations, regulations, taxation, wars (on people, products, and services), prisons, and injustices, we similarly look the other way. We try to find the workaround and keep living like the Jetsons. Often times things don’t go right and the reason is the anachronism that rules us. And yet, unless we understand cause and effect in the way that the old liberal tradition explained it, we can miss the source….”

  • Diane Wilson

    Wayne, I’d rather live under government by the Flintstones than under Machiavelli’s prince (who, by the way, was probably based Cesare Borgia, with perhaps observations of Cesare’s uncle, Pope Alexander V, and Machiavelli’s own employer, the de Medici family).

  • Michael

    Elon is into so very many things. This morning I heard that he’s invested 1,5 billion in bit coin. Sometimes I wonder if he realizes the danger the government may be to his enterprise and is maneuvering to become so extensive and omnipresent that even the government cannot oppose him.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Some interesting differences between the F9 and SS systems:
    * All parts of the SS system are reusable., not just the booster as in F9.
    * The SS booster “SuperHeavy” will never be used anywhere but on Earth, since Starship can land and relaunch by itself on any other land-able solar system body without booster assistance.
    * Many Starships will not have flaps or thermal protection tile, because they will never again reenter an atmosphere (although aerobraking into orbit would require thermal protection).
    * Many Starships will not have landing gear because they will never again land on a surface., for example an asteroid mining freighter.

    I can imagine a Starship with no flaps, tiles, or landing gear that is basically a huge fuel tank parked in LEO to be used to gas up other spacecraft. Or such a ship could be sent from Earth to Mars orbit to “top up” Starships just launched from Mars’ surface for their journey to Earth or elsewhere.

  • Ref. Michael’s comment: Yes.

    And he knows the window is closing fast. You now have me thinking of the world we are likely to have in the next quarter-century, or rather, the world that will be shaping. Not exactly the one I had in mind, but a mis-spent childhood reading sci-fi actually helps here. Many alternate futures, and familiar with the historical ones. Rocks and Shoals.

  • Jeff Wright

    Super Heavy is what will change things-whether Starship can land or not.

  • Ray Van Dune remarked: “I can imagine a Starship with no flaps, tiles, or landing gear that is basically a huge fuel tank parked in LEO to be used to gas up other spacecraft.”

    That’s a truck stop. Don’t need a spaceship for that. Just some stuff to do the job,.

  • wayne

    Deep Space 9 Season 6, Episode 2
    “Rocks and Shoals”

    “We will hold this world for the Dominion, until we die….”

  • mrsizer

    I wonder if he realizes the danger the government may be to his enterprise and is maneuvering to become so extensive and omnipresent that even the government cannot oppose him.
    You mean something such as buying offshore oil platforms before getting lawfared upon by the EPA and FAA?

    As much as I hate “big tech”, I do not understand why folks such as Zuckerberg don’t tell Congress to shove it and close down their US operations. Move everything offshore. If the government tries to stop you, flood your platform with “look what your congress critter is doing to us! You’re going to lose all your friends!” propaganda.

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 *