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ULA’s Atlas-5 rocket successfully launches Starliner into orbit

Atlas-5 immediately after lift-off
Screen capture just after lift-off

Capitalism in space: ULA’s Atlas-5 rocket today successfully launched Boeing’s manned Starliner capsule into orbit on its second attempt to complete an unmanned demo mission to ISS.

The capsule having been deployed by the rocket then followed with a final burn using the capsule’s own engines to get into its proper orbit for rendezvous with ISS tomorrow at 7:10 pm (Eastern). It was during this rendezvous period that Starliner had its problems in the first demo mission in December 2019 that caused the mission to be aborted prior to docking. Hopefully those software issues have been solved and all will go well through tomorrow.

It is interesting to compare the operation and equipment of Boeing/ULA vs SpaceX. While SpaceX has aimed for a sleek look, Boeing/ULA both retain the industrial feel of past rocketry. Neither is wrong, but the difference highlights the consequences of having competing operations. You get variety.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

21 SpaceX
15 China
7 Russia
3 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 30 to 15 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 30 to 25.

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. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get 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.


  • Edward

    American private enterprise now leads China 30 to 15 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 30 to 25.

    Of the 70 orbital launches so far this year (on track for more than 170 launches this year), almost half (43%) are American private enterprise (on track for American private enterprise to have over 70 of those 170 or so launches).

    In the year 2000 Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman had only 20 for the year. Commercialism in space indeed!

  • Edward: There have only been 55 orbital launches so far this year. For the U.S. the total prediction by all companies is for 108 launches. With 30 launches so far, it is unlikely that will be met, which would not be a surprise. However, the pace definitely looks like it will beat the record of 70 launches by the U.S. in 1966.

  • Richard Reese

    As we watched the NASA feed of Starliner’s launch, I commented to my wife about the clunkiness of their coverage.
    Most SpaceX flights will feature views from multiple cameras and occasional informative graphics.
    NASA’s broadcast featured 1 camera view of the first-stage portion of the flight followed by a series of mostly incomprehensible graphics (most of us ain’t Rocket Scientists) for the rest of the broadcast.

  • Richard Reese: You might have missed it, but at one point one of the announcers specifically mentioned that they have plans to add more cameras.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I caught that too. Including one inside the cabin of the capsule itself.

    You can tell that SpaceX glitzy presentations are catching on. Others are slowly stepping up their game.

    Pre-internet days, you had to rely on camera and production from news stations or public television, such as NASA TV.
    It might have had one or two camera feeds, and an announcer.

    In the days of DIY broadcasts, the bar has been moved up. I think NASA TV knows this but also has a limited budget.
    Spacex is throwing away cameras with every second stage the re-enters the atmo. The only reason is they know people watch and it is good for martketing. I am sure the cost is marginal compared to the rest of the vehicle. But still cost is cost.

  • sippin_bourbon wrote, “You can tell that SpaceX glitzy presentations are catching on. Others are slowly stepping up their game.”

    I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Ain’t competition wonderful?

  • sippin_bourbon

    Competition is the ideal situation.

  • Jeff Wright

    I like the retro console tech.

    What happens to your capsule if your touchscreen goes dark?

  • sippin_bourbon

    Probably the same thng that happens on aircraft, both commercial and private/recreational that use screens.
    They switch the needed functions to a screen that works. If they are designed right, a failure on one should not effect the one next to it.

  • Edward

    You noted: “There have only been 55 orbital launches so far this year.

    You are correct. I double dipped the 15 Chinese launches, but this makes the figures even more impressive for commercial space (but the total launches will probably not be close to my suggested number, maybe more like 130 or so — close to last year’s number). As you noted. “American private enterprise now leads … the entire world combined 30 to 25.” Of the 55 worldwide launches, more than half are commercial. Your essay that I linked continues to be correct: private enterprise is leading the rocket market.

    Although we here at BTB haven’t been tracking the payloads, for a few years commercial space companies have already been leading the government agencies in the number of satellites and probes to orbit or beyond. It is almost certain that the total mass by commercial companies also exceeds the mass of government payloads. If the money spent on those commercial satellites does not yet surpass the money spent on the government ones, then it will soon.

    It didn’t take long for commercial space industry to boom, once the U.S. government allowed it to exist freely (relatively free, that is). Other governments are beginning the same policies, and several companies around the world are joining the space-age revolution.

    One has to wonder where we would be, had the government not created an access monopoly with the Space Shuttle, four decades ago. What medicines and products would today come from space manufacturing that would have made life much better, but have been lost or delayed by the good intentions of Congress?

    A doctor friend of mine told me of this potential sight saver:

    “When gravity is nearly eliminated, so too are forces such as surface tension, sedimentation, convection driven buoyancy, all of which can interfere with the orientation and alignment important in the creation of crystalline structures, nanoparticles, or improved uniformity in layering processes,” said Jana Stoudemire, a commercial innovation officer at Space Tango.

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