Conscious Choice cover

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.


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and 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.

ULA’s Atlas 5 today successfully launched three U.S. military satellites

Three U.S. military satellites, one to provide communications and the other two testing experimental engineering, were successfully launched today by ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

11 China
7 SpaceX
3 Japan
3 Russia
3 Europe
3 India

The U.S. is once again tied with China for the most launches this year.


I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.

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.

Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.

You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal don'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

Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.


  • Kirk

    With five strap-on SRBs, that Atlas leapt right off the pad! Here’s the video, with T-10 sec. at 20:47, SRB separation shortly after 22:40, and an interesting view of fairing separation showing significant flexing shortly after 24:30.

    I’ve seen that sort of flexing on separated Ariane 5 fairings in their webcasts, but I’ve not noticed it with Falcon 9 launches. I don’t know if that is just a function of camera placement and how soon the separated fairing becomes visible, of if it is due to the separation method and the ability of their fairing structure to dampen the oscillation.

  • Dick Eagleson

    I believe the Atlas V and Delta IV fairings are shed via use of pyrotechnic charges (aka “explosive bolts”). Falcon 9 uses no pyros to do anything, including stage separation, fairing detachment and payload deployment. All are accomplished via helium gas pneumatic cylinders and/or springs. Pneumatic pushers and springs do not impart nearly as much excess energy to a fairing half as do pyro charges. That may explain the lack of extravagant flexing on the part of SpaceX’s payload fairing halves.

  • A question for the engineers: My first theory for the significant flexing was that, because ULA does not have any plans to recover the fairings, they build them lighter weight than SpaceX, which allows for more flex. I then thought that this theory made no sense, since all the fairings have to be made to resist the Max Q of launch.

    Could the reuseability plans of SpaceX still be a factor that could explain its lack of flexing?

  • Kirk

    Here is a few seconds of low frame rate video of a separating and flexing fairing half from January’s Ariane 5 launch (the partial failure one where they programmed the incorrect azimuth). It switches from animation to downlinked video at 3:45.

  • Kirk

    Here is the March 30 Iridium NEXT 5 Falcon 9 launch. Fairing separation is at 25:19, and it takes 5 seconds before a fairing half comes into view of the engine camera, but while it is farther away than the Atlas V or Ariane 5 fairings were when they were first visible, its silhouette is clear, and it doesn’t display the flexing.

  • Edward

    When they say that size matters, believe them.

    Although SpaceX may have been concerned about damage that may occur due to the flexing and worked to reduce it, SpaceX’s fairings are somewhat smaller than the very large fairing on the Atlas V that we watched and smaller than the large fairing on Ariane’s January launch. The added length can give more opportunity for flexing and more mass to make for greater amplitude of the flexing, making it more visible than for the Falcon’s much smaller fairing.

    I also agree with Dick that the lower shock of the pneumatics provides for lower stresses (thus less strain, or flexing) on the various parts of the rocket, including the fairing.

  • pzatchok

    Max Q and the stress of separation are two vastly different dynamics.

    During Max Q all the stress is pushing in on the fairing. During separation a huge amount is placed on the inside of the fairing as it opens to the force of the passing atmosphere.

    Once it makes it to separation the other one use companies don’t care about flexing after Max Q.

    I bet Space X takes this into account in order to keep the flexing down and thus make the fairing reusable.

    As those fairings flex the fibers they are made off with break and the layers will separate thus making them not reusable. Stop the flexing and they are instantly reusable.

  • Kirk

    I agree with your thesis but take issue with “During separation a huge amount is placed on the inside of the fairing as it opens to the force of the passing atmosphere.”

    Isn’t aerodynamic pressure at the time of fairing separation almost entirely insignificant, even for an object as large and “fluffy” as a fairing half? While the fairing protects the payload from both dynamic pressure and aerodynamic heating, by the time of separation aren’t velocities and pressures such that the latter term dominates? Separation is usually timed for when aerodynamic thermal flux drops a bit below that of Total Solar Irradiance. From the Falcon User’s Guide: “4.3.8 Free Molecular Heating: The payload fairing will nominally be deployed when free molecular aero-thermal heating is less than 1,135 W/m^2. Other fairing deployment constraints can be accommodated as a standard service, although they may modestly reduce vehicle performance. Please contact SpaceX regarding mission-unique fairing deployment requirements.” I believe that by this point, actual dynamic pressure has dropped so low that foil on the payload isn’t even disturbed by the force of the passing atmosphere.

  • Edward

    Kirk wrote: “I believe that by this point, actual dynamic pressure has dropped so low that foil on the payload isn’t even disturbed by the force of the passing atmosphere.

    Correct. Thermal blankets (AKA multi-layer insulation) are located on many areas of the outside of many satellites and are made of thin mylar coated with appropriate materials to give the desired thermal properties. Some can be seen in the second stage engine compartment in the SpaceX launch videos, too. By the time of fairing separation, there is not enough force of the passing atmosphere to harm these blankets, antennas, reflectors, solar arrays, or any of the other delicate items unaerodynamically protruding from the payload.

    I think that pzatchok’s comment about the aerodynamic force at separation overestimates this force. I think that the major forces are those of the separation mechanisms; a lesser force is from the accelerating rocket on the bottom of the fairing, for the fraction of a second until the fairing comes off the upper stage; but the atmosphere provides an even smaller force though this force would be continuous, not transient. I think that the vibration we saw in the videos comes from the forces of the separation of the halves.

    Heating of the fairing is a problem, just as the SR-71 heats up during supersonic flight. The heat passes to the interior and can threaten portions of the payload. I worked on a satellite with a new design for “bumpers” between the solar array panels (launch vibrations could make the solar array panels flex and hit each other), and on launch the bumpers got a bit warmer than expected and stuck together, causing one of the panels to fail to deploy. (Years later, the panel finally deployed, as there was a continuous force on the sticky bumpers, due to the deployment springs.)

    Here is a link to answers to a question about winds and heating at fairing deployment. Notice that one of the answers links to several rockets’ customer user manuals.

    Coincidentally, I had reread the SpaceX Payload User’s Guide a couple of weeks ago (engineers do the strangest things for amusement, but I was looking for vibration information, such as in section 4.3), page 36 gives an envelope for a payload to fit within.

    ULA also provides some payload envelope information:

    Ariane5_Users-Manual_October2016.pdfPage 3-10 shows vents for removing the pressure within the fairing, and pages A5-2 and A5-3 give payload envelopes (usable volumes).

    What strikes me is that there does not seem to be any reduction in envelope near the base of the fairing to account for the flexing that we see on the jettisoned fairings. This tells me that the first inward flection of the fairing does not occur until after the fairing is clear of the payload.

    Because I already have multiple links (so Robert already has to moderate this comment), and since you, dear reader, are interested enough to have read this far, here is a link to answers to the question of why fairings are so expensive:

  • Kirk

    Thank you, Edward, for the very informative post.

    Is it appropriate to ask you what mission had the sticky solar array panel bumpers?

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 *