Author Topic: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer  (Read 39230 times)

Online eeergo

Wonderful opinion piece I haven't found linked elsewhere about the dichotomy between "scrappy" (understood as a positive term describing "doing more with less") and "crappy" sans the leading 's', and the fine line that separates them.

I am posting it in the General Section since it deals with not only Starship (main focus) or Falcon (counter examples) but with recovery and a little bit of everything contained in the SpaceX subforum.

The author is a former SpaceX lead engineer responsible for the successful debut of F9 v1.1 in Falcon 9's 6th flight in 2013, as well as leading the design of the ASDS barges. In other words, one of the people that directly enabled F9 to be the engineering marvel and workhorse it is today, and SpaceX to become the hallmark of space innovation. So, hardly a "hater", "concern troll" or otherwise party with vested interests against SpaceX's way of doing things, as he disclaims in the opening, and instead a very seasoned insider from the heroic SpaceX times that forged the legend upon which everyone supporting Starship rely to justify their apparent shortcomings.

Indeed one of the first examples of "crappy" vs "scrappy" in his text is a (new?) disclosure of how OCISLY's surface was extended, and then repurposed.

https://thenext30trips.com/p/scrappy-special-edition

Some excerpts from the long piece that I found relevant:

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DISCLAIMER: I want to make clear that I am not picking on SpaceX here. If you read it that way, take a deep breath, check yourself, and put down all the water you’ve been carrying for billionaires.

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A few weeks before the [OCISLY] barge was slated to go out on its first mission, our little Recovery team got a panicked phone call from headquarters saying they were worried that the barge wasn’t big enough for the rocket to land on. [...] With no time (and no additional money) we designed something that would technically work, but which in reality looked and functioned like shit. A paltry extra ten feet of reach was added on each side, spanning about 50 feet along the barge. As the missions went by, they rusted and dented up until we finally just cut them off and turned them into blast shielding.

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Like a lot of programs trying to get to orbit, the next steps are picking up the pieces, reviewing the data, and figuring out how to try again [with Starship]. Elon is saying they will be ready to go in 1 - 2 months, which is simply not going to happen.

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They told us we were dumb kids [during F9 development times], that we didn’t know what we were doing, and that we were going to fuck it up. They were mostly right, at various times, if I’m honest. It took a minute, but we eventually figured things out. Something changed, though, around the time we started landing Falcon 9 first stages. Suddenly, we weren’t the underdogs anymore; we were the leaders. That change felt odd, and I remember it happening in real time. [...] As the number of articles, books, videos, and personalities trying to make a living talking about SpaceX online multiplied, I noticed that a weird, decidedly male, scam-adjacent faction started to form.

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A great example of a test that was widely and rightly derided was one by Pythom Space. [...] To be blunt, I see a lot more similarity between this test and the Super Heavy launch than I’d like to. Both were ill-considered, dangerous, destructive, and would’ve benefitted from some real soul searching about why the test was done as well as how it should be done safely. Both of these tests had the air of a circus and a “lol fuck it send it” mentality.

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It’s important that we strive to conduct safe, well-considered tests knowing that things can go wrong, while minimizing the impact. I fear that by celebrating this test and spinning it as necessary progress, we may do more long-term harm than good to the space program and our approach to innovation.

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the further someone is from the action, the less you should trust their excitement about a mission’s relative success. So just because someone sprayed people down with champagne after this Starship flight, as was widely reported, that doesn’t mean it was much of a success.

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Keep in mind, that Starship has nothing inside of it except the tanks, valves, and wires needed to make it fly. There is no payload bay. There are no seats. There is no life support system. We don’t know if the re-entry tiles will work. Honestly, if this was any company other than SpaceX I would declare them toast. [...]  while in my opinion this test was firmly on the crappy side of the “s/crappy” divide, that doesn’t doom them to remain there. [...] Until then, though, it would behoove the rest of us to judge everyone’s declarations of success equally, fairly, and with a critical eye.

Offline Robotbeat

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LOL send it

EDIT: really the interview sounds less like a critique and more like a fair evaluation of the process of making something which starts out impossible and ends up utterly routine. It’s a pretty natural journey to start out crappy, make mistakes that are pretty obviously crappy, but which form the basis of tacit knowledge going forward. Failure is an important part of finding the optimum solution when constrained by resources.

Having worked in a place where you’re not allowed to do that… and it sucks.

(Also, he’s coming from someone who is now an outsider to the company who’s overall—and understandably—sick of E’s s*** and I’m pretty sure that colors his perspective here…)
« Last Edit: 04/28/2023 01:17 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline ZachS09

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I feel that this critique made a bunch of valid points. For example, I should've paid more attention to the launch control room view after they showed the Hawthorne crowd cheering.

I also agree with the concern of the OLM next to Pad 39A following the Starship IFT. That pad is a historic relic, not just a simple launch pad.
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Online eeergo

really the interview sounds less like a critique

Not an interview, it's an opinion piece by the author.

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It’s a pretty natural journey to start out crappy, make mistakes that are pretty obviously crappy

Not his conclusion, and not true in general: you don't need to start luxurious to avoid "crappy" mistakes, when those are obvious or easily avoidable.
-DaviD-

Offline Robotbeat

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He’s also now in a competing company that specifically does GSE/launch pad tech.

Early 20s: intern, doesn’t know what they’re doing. Crappy.

Late 20s: scrappy.

Early 30s: scrappy, becoming truly competent.
Mid to late 30s: competent, somewhat seasoned, no longer scrappy, judge mental of those who are not yet competent, impatient with the crappy interns, still steps in when they see Them starting to make a mistake because they know the pain of a mistake.

50s and later: competent, highly seasoned, sees the intern making the mistake, knows the pain that will cause, recognizes that as a necessary part of the whole process. “Let them cook.” This is where folks like Gerstenmeier and Wayne Hale are.
« Last Edit: 04/28/2023 01:46 pm by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Online eeergo

You know, or not.
-DaviD-

Offline Robotbeat

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I also think the hate on Pythom was a little much.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline matthewkantar

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The author lost me when he compared the recent launch attempt to Pythom’s efforts.

Offline shark0302

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It felt like he was trying to be objective but also had a cognitive bias towards the team working on the starship program.  What i got out of the entire post. The team should have known all the things that people who were part of the original falcon program who have since left already knew.  This, to me shows that not enough senior people who were part of the old mistakes are over seeing the starship program. Which means simple things got  relearned the hard way. On the flip side of that they also learned something I'm sure we just don't know what yet.
« Last Edit: 04/28/2023 05:58 pm by zubenelgenubi »

Offline Robotbeat

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Starship may be the last chance for SpaceX engineers to make big mistakes that look really dumb. None of this stuff would be allowed on the Falcon 9 side of things.

Starship is the last hurrah for crappy or even scrappy at SpaceX. Much of the organization has already evolved to a far more polished, process-driven, incremental approach to operations. Starship will get there, too. It has to, eventually, to be a successful workhorse that supplants Falcon 9.

But the idea they should run development the same way they need to run operations… is the path to a Blue Origin-like pace. It would’ve been impossible to develop for less than $100 billion.
« Last Edit: 04/28/2023 03:33 pm by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline mandrewa

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #10 on: 04/28/2023 04:12 pm »
Hindsight is wonderful.  But it's difficult to fairly evaluate a situation if you don't know the whole context and you have the benefit of knowing what is going to happen next.

For all we know there was really only one mistake.  Or in other words the design of what I'm calling the floor of the launch pad.  Every other failure could have been a consequence of that one failure.  Now I doubt that.  I'll bet there were issues that were separable from what happened with the pad.

And that's part of the value of this test launch.  Now they have data that can influence and change everything up to stage separation and maybe beyond.

I like Ben Kellie's scrappy versus crappy distinction.  And as he repeatedly stated, there's a fine line between the two.

Now I'm sure Ben Kellie knows this, despite not saying it, or maybe he doesn't know it, but in any case he doesn't mention the huge difference in cost and space used between say Pad 39B, which is being used for SLS/Orion, and the Boca Chica launch site.

That NASA launch pad has cost how much to build?  Is it $5 billion?  Or is it actually more than that?  And how many acres does that launch pad occupy?

A big part of this is about money.  Elon Musk is trying to lower the cost of moving mass to space by orders of magnitude. He doesn't have an infinite amount of money.  So given that context and the lack of room at Boca Chica, well of course, he's trying to do it cheaper.

Well he went too cheap!

The exciting thing is that it may be, as Ben Kellie says, "The fix will require complete repouring of the foundation around the launch mount, installation of some kind of cooled-plate to prevent this from happening again, as well as likely refurbishment of the damaged ground tanks.9"

And if that's true, then we will end up with a launch pad that can be built for a much lower cost than say Pad 39A.  I hope it's true.

Offline Greg Hullender

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #11 on: 04/28/2023 04:15 pm »
Interesting read. Thanks for posting it!

Something he doesn't talk about is the fact that B7 was already obsolete. So on the one hand, they didn't have a lot to lose by flying it (except for losing the launch pad!), but on the other hand, I'm not sure how much they stood to learn from it either. Is it possible that the whole exercise was pointless? I hope not, but I'm not sure.

The one thing they clearly did learn from this was that you can't cut corners with the launch pad. Should they have really known that already? Maybe, but there's lots of stuff they "should have known" (e.g. you can't return a first stage propulsively, and even if you did, you couldn't reuse it cost-effectively) that turned out to be false. Would it have saved a lot of time and money if el cheapo launch pads worked? If so, was the experiment worth the gamble, or could they have learned this a lot more cheaply? Those are good questions, but I'm not sure anyone outside of SpaceX can really answer them with any authority.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #12 on: 04/28/2023 04:44 pm »
SpaceX also would’ve had to wait 3 more months to get the better solution installed. So if repair and finish building that solution takes no more than 3 months, then SpaceX is actually STILL ahead and they couldn’t have done better even with hindsight (although I do think extra layers of refractory cement probably would’ve been worth doing with the benefit of hindsight).
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Offline ugordan

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #13 on: 04/28/2023 05:03 pm »
Hindsight is wonderful.  But it's difficult to fairly evaluate a situation if you don't know the whole context and you have the benefit of knowing what is going to happen next.

For all we know there was really only one mistake.  Or in other words the design of what I'm calling the floor of the launch pad.  Every other failure could have been a consequence of that one failure.  Now I doubt that.  I'll bet there were issues that were separable from what happened with the pad.

And that's part of the value of this test launch.  Now they have data that can influence and change everything up to stage separation and maybe beyond.

Way back in the day (maybe 2013?) when the first F9-R triple-engine test launch happened in McGregor and blew up, SpaceX said something to the effect of: we were only monitoring 1 single string of multiple available engine sensors and the sensor went bonkers so we lost the vehicle. But, fear not, regular F9 launches don't short-circuit this multiple sensor logic, so we're fine for normal F9 launches.

A number of seasoned posters back then said that it was a dumb move to ignore the redundant engine sensors (or something to that effect) (and I can't really argue with that).

I wonder if this former engineer was part of that program as well, because the comments seem relevant to the SH launch - i.e. we should have known better. But, for some reason, the F9 recovery program gets a pass, while this SH/SS launch is seen as too cowboy-like and "just YOLO it"?

Reason I post this is, 10 years later, we all see what eventually became of F9 recovery, even if there were "dumb" mistakes made. It's not the first time SpaceX made a wrong decision and had to back-track, and it's very likely not the last.

They knew that using Fondag was a calculated risk, it appeared to perform OK during the 50% throttle static test. They were wrong. They will pay the price for the wrong assessment in both money and time, but, again, it's not the first time they've likely made a bad call - albeit this one is very publicly visible.

Does that make SH/SS test program inherently more risky than F9 recovery program? I dunno. History will tell.

Offline RoadWithoutEnd

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #14 on: 04/28/2023 07:34 pm »
SpaceX also would’ve had to wait 3 more months to get the better solution installed. So if repair and finish building that solution takes no more than 3 months, then SpaceX is actually STILL ahead and they couldn’t have done better even with hindsight (although I do think extra layers of refractory cement probably would’ve been worth doing with the benefit of hindsight).

Plus, whatever solution was in work wouldn't have had the benefit of all this empirical data, so could have still been inadequate while costing more time and money to fix than what they do now.

Basically, they just have to stop Stage 0 from digging itself a Stage -1. 

The jury isn't in on all the ways the rocket was compromised by its own ignition, but initial appearances are that it's a certified beast that got most of the way to MECO even after having taking a shotgun blast of concrete magma to the gut.  So, depending on how well the OLM and OLT faired, things like reflected shockwaves and heat that normally have to inform GSE development might be a retired risk, and only the pad itself is left to deal with. 

Fix that one thing and the rest might be straightforward.
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Online JayWee

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #15 on: 04/28/2023 08:49 pm »
SpaceX also would’ve had to wait 3 more months to get the better solution installed. So if repair and finish building that solution takes no more than 3 months, then SpaceX is actually STILL ahead and they couldn’t have done better even with hindsight (although I do think extra layers of refractory cement probably would’ve been worth doing with the benefit of hindsight).

Plus, whatever solution was in work wouldn't have had the benefit of all this empirical data, so could have still been inadequate while costing more time and money to fix than what they do now.

Basically, they just have to stop Stage 0 from digging itself a Stage -1. 

The jury isn't in on all the ways the rocket was compromised by its own ignition, but initial appearances are that it's a certified beast that got most of the way to MECO even after having taking a shotgun blast of concrete magma to the gut.  So, depending on how well the OLM and OLT faired, things like reflected shockwaves and heat that normally have to inform GSE development might be a retired risk, and only the pad itself is left to deal with. 

Fix that one thing and the rest might be straightforward.
Model verification is always good. I am rather interested in the counter-question (with the image of the enormous flame diverter of Soyuz in mind):
Given the size of the rocket, has the pad worked better than assumed by people always expecting a flame diverter?
« Last Edit: 04/28/2023 08:50 pm by JayWee »

Online JayWee

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #16 on: 04/28/2023 09:04 pm »
From the article:
Quote from: Ben Kellie
→ So, why the hell didn’t that same testing happen with the Super Heavy stage?

I have no idea. The last static fire they conducted before launch didn’t even fire all the engines! Only 31 of the 33 engines were tested during that static fire. In fact, they never tested the full set of engines all together. That’s not testing like you fly. That’s not running a comprehensive test program.
This is the point I disagree the most.  DUH. They tested exactly like you fly - by, umm,  flying!.

Somehow I am reminded of this thing:
Quote from: http://heroicrelics.org/info/all-up/all-up-flight-testing.html
George Mueller, shortly after being named NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, introduced the concept of "all-up testing" to the Saturn/Apollo program. Rather than traditional method of testing rockets, which called for a slow, methodical program, testing one stage before adding another live stage, "all-up" called for each rocket stage and each spacecraft module to be live and representative of the form which would be used in the actual lunar mission.

« Last Edit: 04/28/2023 09:05 pm by JayWee »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #17 on: 04/28/2023 09:15 pm »
The one critique that I would make of Starship is that SpaceX did really well with Falcon 9 in part because they went absolutely nuts with ground testing. They tested the absolute s*** out of the engines, the rocket, the stage separation mechanism, etc. the only thing they didn’t do was test the upper stage in vacuum, which would’ve costed like $400 million or something (so they were like Just Send It, cheaper to test in flight for $40 million). I think if SpaceX had done more work on Starship booster GSE earlier on, they could’ve probably made progress sooner.

However, that’s traveling like a year or two back in time. If we talk about a couple weeks back in time, I’m not sure their decisionmaking was actually bad. They would’ve had to wait 3 months for the flame diverter to be installed. That’s STILL potentially longer than it’ll take to get a booster back on the pad now.
« Last Edit: 04/28/2023 09:18 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #18 on: 04/28/2023 09:44 pm »
Starship may be the last chance for SpaceX engineers to make big mistakes that look really dumb. None of this stuff would be allowed on the Falcon 9 side of things.

We have to remember that the SpaceX of 2010 needed to produce revenue with each launch, so they didn't launch rockets unless they were getting revenue.

The SpaceX of today (2023) can afford to do incremental rocket testing, and in fact has to with the Starship because it is so big and complex.

Quote
Starship is the last hurrah for crappy or even scrappy at SpaceX.

I don't know why that would be. Didn't SpaceX just send up a bunch of Starlink satellites that didn't work as well as planned? I think if they need test data in a short period of time and a reasonable cost, I think they will still risk destruction of hardware.

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Much of the organization has already evolved to a far more polished, process-driven, incremental approach to operations. Starship will get there, too. It has to, eventually, to be a successful workhorse that supplants Falcon 9.

How you run a business with a mature product is different than how you run a business doing product development. Sustaining innovation is different than disruptive innovation, for many good reasons. But that doesn't mean SpaceX has to forget how to do disruptive innovation, however it does mean they have to work hard to keep that ability, since once companies start cost cutting they inevitably go after the cost centers that have less connections to revenue - which is usually new product development.

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But the idea they should run development the same way they need to run operations… is the path to a Blue Origin-like pace. It would’ve been impossible to develop for less than $100 billion.

I have no idea what is happening at Blue Origin, but yes, let's hope SpaceX NEVER becomes like them. And Blue Origin had so much potential going for them...  :(
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline alugobi

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #19 on: 04/28/2023 09:52 pm »
They would’ve had to wait 3 months for the flame diverter to be installed. That’s STILL potentially longer than it’ll take to get a booster back on the pad now.
Key word 'potentially'.  That means a booster ready to static fire by July. 

Still skeptical of that.  We still don't know from them all that they have to fix yet.  Standing by...

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #20 on: 04/28/2023 10:11 pm »
Well, sure, you have to use caveat words when talking about the future… and you most certainly need to do so caveating words when talking about alternate paths!
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Offline alugobi

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #21 on: 04/28/2023 10:40 pm »
Well, actually, I'm giving you some props for that.  You were pretty quick to latch on to Musk's prediction without any hesitation, so to see you now pulling back just a bit is to your credit. 

Edit:  so there.  Take the rest of the day off.
« Last Edit: 04/28/2023 10:42 pm by alugobi »

Offline Alvian@IDN

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« Last Edit: 04/28/2023 11:06 pm by Alvian@IDN »
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #23 on: 04/28/2023 11:12 pm »
Well, actually, I'm giving you some props for that.  You were pretty quick to latch on to Musk's prediction without any hesitation, so to see you now pulling back just a bit is to your credit. 

Edit:  so there.  Take the rest of the day off.
I’ve been pretty consistent that we’re, IMHO, like 6-8 months from the next flight most likely… I’m just willing to entertain the possibility of getting to a near flight ready state a lot sooner, ie ready to start static fire tests.
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Offline matthewkantar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #24 on: 04/29/2023 12:44 am »
Any one know/wanna guess where this guy is working now? Has a B.O. vibe to him, but he disses people working fr billionaires, so maybe not?

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #25 on: 04/29/2023 02:31 am »
Any one know/wanna guess where this guy is working now? Has a B.O. vibe to him, but he disses people working fr billionaires, so maybe not?
He started a company doing GSE/launch pad services, IIRC.
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Offline Twark_Main

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #26 on: 04/29/2023 04:23 am »
The SpaceX of today (2023) can afford to do incremental rocket testing, and in fact has to with the Starship because it is so big and complex.

Easy to say when it's not your money paying for it...   ???


How is this 'proposal' anything more than "hey, I've had enough of all this pesky low-cost rapid innovation, now that I've had my fill of excitement it's time to get all OldSpace and bloated on this program...." ?   :-\
« Last Edit: 04/29/2023 04:33 am by Twark_Main »
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Online jimvela

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #27 on: 04/29/2023 04:30 am »
Any one know/wanna guess where this guy is working now? Has a B.O. vibe to him, but he disses people working fr billionaires, so maybe not?

There's no need to guess- it's a short search away from the URL in the OP of this thread (URL authored by Ben Kellie ) to this:

https://www.launch-company.com/
Or specifically:
https://www.launch-company.com/about
« Last Edit: 04/29/2023 04:31 am by jimvela »

Offline Twark_Main

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #28 on: 04/29/2023 04:34 am »
Any one know/wanna guess where this guy is working now? Has a B.O. vibe to him, but he disses people working fr billionaires, so maybe not?

There's no need to guess- it's a short search away from the URL in the OP of this thread (URL authored by Ben Kellie ) to this:

https://www.launch-company.com/
Or specifically:
https://www.launch-company.com/about

"Oh my God it's full of [ads]"
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Offline RoadWithoutEnd

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #29 on: 04/29/2023 04:54 am »
SpaceX also would’ve had to wait 3 more months to get the better solution installed. So if repair and finish building that solution takes no more than 3 months, then SpaceX is actually STILL ahead and they couldn’t have done better even with hindsight (although I do think extra layers of refractory cement probably would’ve been worth doing with the benefit of hindsight).

Plus, whatever solution was in work wouldn't have had the benefit of all this empirical data, so could have still been inadequate while costing more time and money to fix than what they do now.

Basically, they just have to stop Stage 0 from digging itself a Stage -1. 

The jury isn't in on all the ways the rocket was compromised by its own ignition, but initial appearances are that it's a certified beast that got most of the way to MECO even after having taking a shotgun blast of concrete magma to the gut.  So, depending on how well the OLM and OLT faired, things like reflected shockwaves and heat that normally have to inform GSE development might be a retired risk, and only the pad itself is left to deal with. 

Fix that one thing and the rest might be straightforward.
Model verification is always good. I am rather interested in the counter-question (with the image of the enormous flame diverter of Soyuz in mind):
Given the size of the rocket, has the pad worked better than assumed by people always expecting a flame diverter?

The literal pad (the ground directly beneath the OLM) was close to a worst-case scenario, but the rocket working that long despite such an incredible onslaught and resulting failures is impressive.  Whatever measures are implemented for the pad will now be better-designed than if they were just guessing about their needs without a single full-scale launch.
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Offline matthewkantar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #30 on: 04/29/2023 05:08 pm »
Any one know/wanna guess where this guy is working now? Has a B.O. vibe to him, but he disses people working fr billionaires, so maybe not?

There's no need to guess- it's a short search away from the URL in the OP of this thread (URL authored by Ben Kellie ) to this:

https://www.launch-company.com/
Or specifically:
https://www.launch-company.com/about

Ahhhh! Makes sense now. Went from innovator to vendor. Apologies for not clicking the links myself.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #31 on: 04/29/2023 05:18 pm »
I do think it’s a good point that a highly engineered flame trench would’ve allowed more static fires, BUT the overall dismissive tone in this article is really off-putting. I think he’s trying to distance himself from E, but geez.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #32 on: 04/29/2023 05:36 pm »
I do think it’s a good point that a highly engineered flame trench would’ve allowed more static fires, BUT the overall dismissive tone in this article is really off-putting. I think he’s trying to distance himself from E, but geez.

Maybe the overall dismissive tone is bitterness for time spent "in the trenches" earlier in his career...
Or perhaps there's a relationship of his bitter and condescending tone to interacting with executives that can't bother to get engineering calculations correct or even do them (note:  probably not just one example, if in the industry for very long.)
Or maybe just really does fundamentally dislike one previous boss.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #33 on: 04/29/2023 05:38 pm »
Yeah, it’s plausible the opinion is colored by his opinion of E. Understandably, as E is kind of an a-hole getting into political culture war stuff, but it’s bad to let that color your technical arguments.
« Last Edit: 04/29/2023 05:42 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline GWH

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #34 on: 04/29/2023 05:39 pm »
Enjoyed the article, nothing wrong with taking a look and questioning things.

The comparison to SLS's flight seemed a bit misplaced.  Yes it and Orion had a near perfect mission and debut - but the consequences of failure there were extremely high. Risking a bespoke multi-billion dollar capsule and the schedule of the entire Artemis program on the debut launch of a new rocket?

At this stage SpaceX can still afford to take risks and fail - but no they shouldn't look like amateurs doing it.

Time will tell what the consequences of their risks are. If the pad is good to go in months like is claimed, NBD  if the schedule shifts over 6 months then they took a bad risk.

We could very easily have been looking at 2 years of delays to proving Orion after a failed SLS and asking "How could they be so reckless".
« Last Edit: 04/29/2023 05:43 pm by GWH »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #35 on: 04/29/2023 05:43 pm »
It’s fundamental to taking a failure-forward approach that some of your mistakes will look amateurish.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline matthewkantar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #36 on: 04/29/2023 08:19 pm »
Comparisons to SLS are okay, if one remembers they are paying ~a hundred times as much for similar engines and then throwing them away. A big part of scrappy/crappy is getting it done on the cheap. Getting it done at SLS prices will never change things.

Offline alugobi

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #37 on: 04/29/2023 08:43 pm »
Getting it done at SLS prices will never change things.
That's by design with that program.

Offline Cheapchips

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #38 on: 05/01/2023 03:56 pm »
Starship may be the last chance for SpaceX engineers to make big mistakes that look really dumb. None of this stuff would be allowed on the Falcon 9 side of things.

Starship is the last hurrah for crappy or even scrappy at SpaceX.

When Starship is operationally mature, I wouldn't be surprised if they start another (s)crappy program.   It helps retain talent, attracts new employees and generally drives the company forward and all that stuff.

I don't have a specific project in mind. I'm not convinced they need to pursue an even bigger lift vehicle. There is a wealth of things that need to be done towards their multi planetary ambitions though.
« Last Edit: 05/01/2023 03:57 pm by Cheapchips »

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #39 on: 05/01/2023 04:08 pm »
The really (S)crappy work will be if starship to Mars is successful, then the whole business of building a permanent presence on Mars will commence.

Talk about monster engineering problem...

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #40 on: 05/01/2023 04:18 pm »
I do think it’s a good point that a highly engineered flame trench would’ve allowed more static fires, BUT the overall dismissive tone in this article is really off-putting. I think he’s trying to distance himself from E, but geez.

Maybe the overall dismissive tone is bitterness for time spent "in the trenches" earlier in his career...
Or perhaps there's a relationship of his bitter and condescending tone to interacting with executives that can't bother to get engineering calculations correct or even do them (note:  probably not just one example, if in the industry for very long.)
Or maybe just really does fundamentally dislike one previous boss.

According to LinkedIn, he was at SpaceX for a little over three years before starting his own GSE/launch pad company.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #41 on: 05/01/2023 04:18 pm »
The really (S)crappy work will be if starship to Mars is successful, then the whole business of building a permanent presence on Mars will commence.

Talk about monster engineering problem...
Mars City as the next “Starbase.”
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Offline Jim

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #42 on: 05/01/2023 04:20 pm »

I also agree with the concern of the OLM next to Pad 39A following the Starship IFT. That pad is a historic relic, not just a simple launch pad.

No, the real estate is more important than the structure.

Offline alugobi

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #43 on: 05/01/2023 04:52 pm »
What he said.  Want to normalize spaceflight--a goal of enthusiasts everywhere?  Quit making everything "historic".  Accept that the new derives from the old and that the old passes on.  Not every first new thing has to go into a museum, and all the old stuff needn't be preserved for posterity.  The next generation doesn't remember and doesn't care. 

Offline rcoppola

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #44 on: 05/01/2023 05:18 pm »
He lost me here:

"The exciting part for all of us is seeing if they still have that extra gear they can shift into to catch up, pull ahead, and turn this into the machine that it can be."

Which extra gear would that one be? The one that unleashes Dragons to fly every 3 months or the Falcons that fly every 3 days? Or perhaps the gear that built an entire manufacturing, test and launch facility from scratch, on a beach, in less than 5 years.

Or you know, the gear that went from a flying water tank in July 2019, to a full Starship in April 2023.

Was the test a shit-show? IMO, yes. I'd have have waited for the water-cooled plate and Booster 9. But to ask if SpaceX has another gear to move Starship forward, past SLS, feels like a version of, "The gentleman doth protest too much, me thinks."

 

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Offline CuddlyRocket

The really (S)crappy work will be if starship to Mars is successful, then the whole business of building a permanent presence on Mars will commence.

Talk about monster engineering problem...

Monster financial and engineering problem. It can be argued that Elon's greatest skill is his ability to find a step-by-step path to solving such problems where each step is itself profitable.

Offline Redclaws

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #46 on: 05/02/2023 05:14 am »
I also think the hate on Pythom was a little much.

I disagree about this - Pythom endangered people's lives (yes, just their own, but still) for basically no reason whatsoever, and in a manner that is likely to teach them nothing and result in nothing.  There's basically nothing good to say about them except that some of them might learn they're being fools and stop, hopefully before someone dies.  Seriously - that's how bad they are.

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #47 on: 05/02/2023 05:18 am »
What has the Starship test launch actually cost SpaceX?

They needed to install the new water-cooled steel plate anyway, but that seems like it was a few months away in either case. So a delay to launch mount readiness was already a given.

The rocket was already obsolete so no incremental loss there.

Basically, they got some hysterical bad press, but that they can just ignore while continuing to launch F9’s and FH’s week after week proving their competence.

Honestly, this article is just someone trying to capitalize on the zeitgeist in the immediate aftermath of the Starship test and Elon’s Twitter takeover. Ironically, by punting his own previous involvement at SpaceX to bolster his credentials.

Not much to see here.
« Last Edit: 05/02/2023 05:19 am by M.E.T. »

Offline Valerij

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #48 on: 05/02/2023 07:25 pm »
Starship may be the last chance for SpaceX engineers to make big mistakes that look really dumb. None of this stuff would be allowed on the Falcon 9 side of things.

Starship is the last hurrah for crappy or even scrappy at SpaceX.

When Starship is operationally mature, I wouldn't be surprised if they start another (s)crappy program.   It helps retain talent, attracts new employees and generally drives the company forward and all that stuff.

I don't have a specific project in mind. I'm not convinced they need to pursue an even bigger lift vehicle. There is a wealth of things that need to be done towards their multi planetary ambitions though.
I would not be surprised if such a project is an interplanetary spacecraft with a thermonuclear engine. A former SpaceX employee has now founded one of several companies developing such an engine. I have the impression that some projects are already close to creating working prototypes, and mostly economic obstacles remained.
   
More details can be found in the relevant topic: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=5367.0

Offline DecoLV

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #49 on: 05/02/2023 10:43 pm »
I feel this essay is somewhat confirmatory that SpaceX keeps re-inventing the wheel, unnecessarily. One would think Starbase would have strong connectivity to the history of Falcon, and institutional knowledge of Shuttle, Saturn, Atlas....all that came before. All that history is available.  But I watch the Boca Chica progress videos over the years, and for all the milestones wtih a new vehicle, it has always seemed to me a little like a bunch of boys trying something for the first time. For example, the OLM seems to have been designed, and redesigned, on the fly. Iterative testing is fine when doing something truly new, but how much was really new? ... the need for some kind of flame diverter, water deluge / sound suppression seems obvious to me (never mind the specifics, I'm not suggesting we are all engineers. But they are.) If you need rainbirds at 39A and 40, why wouldn't a much larger vehicle not need something? Now, because so much happens behind the scenes, I tended to give the benefit of the doubt. New vehicle, new launch site, etc. But it does seem now that so much rocket engineering has been ignored or forgotten. "We thought the Fondag would be enough." Really?

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #50 on: 05/02/2023 10:49 pm »
I feel this essay is somewhat confirmatory that SpaceX keeps re-inventing the wheel, unnecessarily. One would think Starbase would have strong connectivity to the history of Falcon, and institutional knowledge of Shuttle, Saturn, Atlas....all that came before. All that history is available.  But I watch the Boca Chica progress videos over the years, and for all the milestones wtih a new vehicle, it has always seemed to me a little like a bunch of boys trying something for the first time. For example, the OLM seems to have been designed, and redesigned, on the fly. Iterative testing is fine when doing something truly new, but how much was really new? ... the need for some kind of flame diverter, water deluge / sound suppression seems obvious to me (never mind the specifics, I'm not suggesting we are all engineers. But they are.) If you need rainbirds at 39A and 40, why wouldn't a much larger vehicle not need something? Now, because so much happens behind the scenes, I tended to give the benefit of the doubt. New vehicle, new launch site, etc. But it does seem now that so much rocket engineering has been ignored or forgotten. "We thought the Fondag would be enough." Really?

This constantly reinventing the wheel seems to be the case with all Musk endeavors throughout their history.  Likely a necessary feature.

Offline joek

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #51 on: 05/03/2023 12:01 am »
I feel this essay is somewhat confirmatory that SpaceX keeps re-inventing the wheel, unnecessarily. ... But it does seem now that so much rocket engineering has been ignored or forgotten. "We thought the Fondag would be enough." Really?

See very little that they have reinvented. Improved, yes.  Sometimes improving involves going back to first principles (which is a Musk hallmark). That may appear to be reinventing to the outside observer, and sometimes it doesn't result in what is expected.

Based on what is known about Musk from interviews, books, and associates, I doubt very much he has forgotten past lessons--although it might appear so, or that he is ignoring them (see above).

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #52 on: 05/03/2023 12:17 am »
No one has ever accomplished what SpaceX is attempting.

Many in the industry still think it’s basically impossible. You can’t do the “impossible” by doing things the way they’ve always been done.
« Last Edit: 05/03/2023 12:19 am by Robotbeat »
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Offline ulm_atms

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #53 on: 05/03/2023 12:35 am »
The one critique that I would make of Starship is that SpaceX did really well with Falcon 9 in part because they went absolutely nuts with ground testing. They tested the absolute s*** out of the engines, the rocket, the stage separation mechanism, etc. the only thing they didn’t do was test the upper stage in vacuum, which would’ve costed like $400 million or something (so they were like Just Send It, cheaper to test in flight for $40 million). I think if SpaceX had done more work on Starship booster GSE earlier on, they could’ve probably made progress sooner.

However, that’s traveling like a year or two back in time. If we talk about a couple weeks back in time, I’m not sure their decisionmaking was actually bad. They would’ve had to wait 3 months for the flame diverter to be installed. That’s STILL potentially longer than it’ll take to get a booster back on the pad now.
They really couldn't if you think about it.  Starship booster design was still in extreme flux.  They had to get all of that design straight first before they could.  You don't fit the rocket to the pad, you fit the pad to the rocket.

Offline ulm_atms

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #54 on: 05/03/2023 12:37 am »
Interesting read. Thanks for posting it!

Something he doesn't talk about is the fact that B7 was already obsolete. So on the one hand, they didn't have a lot to lose by flying it (except for losing the launch pad!), but on the other hand, I'm not sure how much they stood to learn from it either. Is it possible that the whole exercise was pointless? I hope not, but I'm not sure.

The one thing they clearly did learn from this was that you can't cut corners with the launch pad. Should they have really known that already? Maybe, but there's lots of stuff they "should have known" (e.g. you can't return a first stage propulsively, and even if you did, you couldn't reuse it cost-effectively) that turned out to be false. Would it have saved a lot of time and money if el cheapo launch pads worked? If so, was the experiment worth the gamble, or could they have learned this a lot more cheaply? Those are good questions, but I'm not sure anyone outside of SpaceX can really answer them with any authority.
Well...they learned a really good lesson with the AFTS on this test.  So that is definitely something.  :)

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #55 on: 05/03/2023 12:42 am »
I feel this essay is somewhat confirmatory that SpaceX keeps re-inventing the wheel, unnecessarily. One would think Starbase would have strong connectivity to the history of Falcon, and institutional knowledge of Shuttle, Saturn, Atlas....all that came before.

Not sure you understand how significantly different Starship is from all those examples you gave. Even how significantly different Starship is versus Falcon 9/H.

Quote
All that history is available.

OK, but what part of the history of the Shuttle should SpaceX have learned from that they haven't? Because SpaceX did learn NOT to use LH2 as a fuel, and NOT to use solid-fueled engines. So what else didn't they learn from the Shuttle program?

Quote
But I watch the Boca Chica progress videos over the years, and for all the milestones wtih a new vehicle, it has always seemed to me a little like a bunch of boys trying something for the first time.

Now you're just being insulting. >:(  Because no one else has been working on a FULLY REUSABLE space transportation system, so it is pretty much impossible to start with much of a knowledge base for what SpaceX is attempting to do.

Quote
For example, the OLM seems to have been designed, and redesigned, on the fly. Iterative testing is fine when doing something truly new, but how much was really new?

Can you point to anyone else that is trying to catch 9m diameter reusable rockets at the same facility they are launching from?

Look, I don't think SpaceX has made all the right decisions, but it is rare that anyone doing something so completely new makes all the right decisions. But I don't think you understand the enormity of the task ahead of SpaceX, and how completely different it is from what everyone else has done before.

It is easy to criticize when you are outside the decision loop...  ::)
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline JMS

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #56 on: 05/03/2023 12:57 am »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #57 on: 05/03/2023 01:00 am »
It’s literally twice as powerful as the Saturn V.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline matthewkantar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #58 on: 05/03/2023 01:59 am »
T+24 hours quarterbacking.

Offline ZachF

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #59 on: 05/05/2023 12:17 pm »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

SpaceX is already bending the rebar back, making new forms, and refilling the hole in almost the time it takes the peanut gallery  to write their blog posts.
« Last Edit: 05/05/2023 12:19 pm by ZachF »
artist, so take opinions expressed above with a well-rendered grain of salt...
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Offline edkyle99

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #60 on: 05/05/2023 03:36 pm »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

SpaceX is already bending the rebar back, making new forms, and refilling the hole in almost the time it takes the peanut gallery  to write their blog posts.
That's good, but the hole isn't the problem.

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Offline matthewkantar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #61 on: 05/05/2023 04:31 pm »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

SpaceX is already bending the rebar back, making new forms, and refilling the hole in almost the time it takes the peanut gallery  to write their blog posts.
That's good, but the hole isn't the problem.

 - Ed Kyle

Rendering the hole a not-a-hole is on the critical path to addressing the problem.

Offline meekGee

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #62 on: 05/05/2023 04:56 pm »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

SpaceX is already bending the rebar back, making new forms, and refilling the hole in almost the time it takes the peanut gallery  to write their blog posts.
That's good, but the hole isn't the problem.

 - Ed Kyle
What IS the problem then? Anyone doubting the program is moving forward? 
Anyone else claiming they could do SH/SS better, faster or cheaper? Or at all for that matter?

They got B7 out, caused some damage but didn't in any way impact the site to create a significant delay, got a lot of data to make the B9 flight better..  I don't get the doom and gloom.
« Last Edit: 05/05/2023 05:54 pm by meekGee »
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Offline alugobi

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #63 on: 05/05/2023 05:20 pm »
I don't get the doom and gloom.
It's the same enthusiasm shown for booster reuse.

Offline jongoff

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #64 on: 05/05/2023 08:30 pm »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

Ben isn't criticizing from a recliner. The guy's actively running a space startup, and used to work at SpaceX on their ASDS program. That's frankly doing more to move space forward than probably 90% of the people on this forum...

Or were you being ironic?

~Jon

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #65 on: 05/05/2023 08:57 pm »
I do sense a bit of bitterness from him, but overall the point isn’t totally wrong, and he’s not a mere “armchair” engineer.
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Offline edkyle99

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #66 on: 05/06/2023 02:19 am »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

SpaceX is already bending the rebar back, making new forms, and refilling the hole in almost the time it takes the peanut gallery  to write their blog posts.
That's good, but the hole isn't the problem.

 - Ed Kyle
What IS the problem then?

Raptor.  Super Heavy itself (thermal, vibration, pogo maybe, TVC) which is a problem without full up ground testing.  Maybe Starship thermal protection. 

 - Ed Kyle

Offline meekGee

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #67 on: 05/06/2023 02:35 am »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

SpaceX is already bending the rebar back, making new forms, and refilling the hole in almost the time it takes the peanut gallery  to write their blog posts.
That's good, but the hole isn't the problem.

 - Ed Kyle
What IS the problem then?

Raptor.  Super Heavy itself (thermal, vibration, pogo maybe, TVC) which is a problem without full up ground testing.  Maybe Starship thermal protection. 

 - Ed Kyle

You don't know much about SH itself. You saw a flight of an early testbed. Remember before B7 they were even thinking of launching B4.  Under different circumstances (B7 was damaged and repaired) they would have gone with B8 or B9 first.

None of these represents SH.

You said: "thermal, vibration, pogo maybe, TVC" - those are just words.

What does "vibration" mean?  That there was vibration?

What does "TVC" mean? That there's some general issue with the concept?  the algorithm?  the implementation?

What does "pogo maybe" mean?  (I know what pogo is, but how does that relate to SH? What evidence did you see for that?). 

"Thermal" - That there were temperatures?

What specific concerns are you highlighting? You're just throwing terms.


What we saw is 3 engines shut down intentionally on start-up, and then who knows how much damage from the concrete barrage and how it developed during flight.  B7 got off the pad, leaving some damage behind it, and got maybe half-way to staging.  Meh.  If B7/S24 was the Dear Moon stack, I'd see a cause for concern.  For for what B7 was, it was a great result.
« Last Edit: 05/06/2023 05:37 am by meekGee »
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Offline alugobi

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #68 on: 05/06/2023 06:08 pm »
mG, you're not concerned enough.  ;)

Offline JMS

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #69 on: 05/06/2023 08:48 pm »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

Ben isn't criticizing from a recliner. The guy's actively running a space startup, and used to work at SpaceX on their ASDS program. That's frankly doing more to move space forward than probably 90% of the people on this forum...

Or were you being ironic?

~Jon

Sorry I wasn't clear. I was reacting to DecoLV's criticisms and Coastal Ron's rebuttal to same.

Offline chopsticks

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #70 on: 05/07/2023 03:33 pm »
Just going to put this out there. As a fan of SpaceX and spaceflight in general, I find it incredibly annoying how it is becoming increasingly more difficult to ever criticize ANYTHING that SpaceX does, in particular with the Starship program.

It's impossible to do so, because you will just be met with "well that's just how they operate, their mantra is fail fast and learn from it". I appreciate that this is how they operate and it's very refreshing to see how quickly they are able to move and achieve great results, but I just really dislike it when you point out an obvious oversight and people run to the defensive basically say that you aren't allowed to criticise anything they do because they know better, while totally forgetting that Elon Musk himself has admitted to making dumb mistakes at SpaceX.

For example, how in the world did they overlook that Texas regulation about LNG tanks while setting up the fuel farm? Or that they built a 12 metre wide water tank with no reinforcements. Or that they thought somehow that a ~50% thrust static fire was enough to extrapolate that the pad would hold up (once) to a full thrust launch? In the end, none of these things seem to have been showstoppers, but that's not the point nor the implication.

Look, as I said, I think was SpaceX is doing and has accomplished is incredible, and I don't want to take that away from them but anytime you say something with a negative connotation you get called a concern troll.

Perhaps personality has something to do with it. I find overly optimistic people annoying.

Offline Khadgars

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #71 on: 05/07/2023 03:45 pm »
The really (S)crappy work will be if starship to Mars is successful, then the whole business of building a permanent presence on Mars will commence.

Talk about monster engineering problem...

Pretty certain Elon said SpaceX isn't in the business of building cities. 
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Offline Malatrope

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #72 on: 05/07/2023 05:09 pm »
(...snip...)
Perhaps personality has something to do with it. I find overly optimistic people annoying.

I will take an overly optimistic person over a cynic any day. An optimist's reach may exceed his grasp, but at least he is reaching. A pessimist never bothers.

A person should be aware of what came before, but in many cases why something was done is lost in the mists of time, and there's the real danger of "it's always been done this way because we tried this and it worked". It should be obvious that new ways to do things will not come from slavish adherence to what was done before. The old ways worked, yes, but other ways (that could have been found even then) might have worked better.

The cost of launching B7, and the cleanup, is offset by the cost avoidance of demolishing it or using up space in the rocket garden. We have no visibility into SpaceX's development process cost matrix, so harping about what they should have done is really just whining, to my ears.
Space is hard. Hard is fun.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #73 on: 05/07/2023 05:23 pm »
Just going to put this out there. As a fan of SpaceX and spaceflight in general, I find it incredibly annoying how it is becoming increasingly more difficult to ever criticize ANYTHING that SpaceX does, in particular with the Starship program.

SpaceX fan from Falcon 1 days, so I've been defending SpaceX and their efforts for quite a while. Why? Because unlike bloated NASA programs we all know about, SpaceX has been doing most of their most innovate work without using any of my taxpayer money.

And I think this is an important point to remember, because ignoring the HLS program (i.e. because the 2024 date was NEVER close to being realistic) the Starship program is pure entertainment. Think about it, the vast majority of everyone that is currently expressing opinions about what SpaceX is or isn't doing right will NEVER ride on a Starship or pay to have something launched on a Starship. So it literally DOES NOT MATTER if the Starship program succeeds or not in our daily lives.

So why do SpaceX fans cheer them on, even when they have setbacks? Because SpaceX has an ambitious goal that we support.

Quote
It's impossible to do so, because you will just be met with "well that's just how they operate, their mantra is fail fast and learn from it". I appreciate that this is how they operate and it's very refreshing to see how quickly they are able to move and achieve great results, but I just really dislike it when you point out an obvious oversight and people run to the defensive basically say that you aren't allowed to criticise anything they do because they know better, while totally forgetting that Elon Musk himself has admitted to making dumb mistakes at SpaceX.

Good, Fast, Cheap, pick two. That pretty much explains what we see with SpaceX, and I think people keep forgetting how SpaceX trades "Good" for "Fast" and "Cheap".

Do I have to remind everyone that the SLS program has consumed over $20B, taken far longer, and is only slightly ahead of the progress the Starship program has made? In fact the SLS program is a good example of while you can only get a maximum of two choices from Good, Fast, Cheap, you can certainly get less than two...  ;)

Quote
Perhaps personality has something to do with it. I find overly optimistic people annoying.

Elon Musk has never made it easy to root for him. He has personal idiosyncrasies that certainly detract from what SpaceX the organization are doing, yet it is hard to argue that he isn't good at extremely difficult hardware projects - somehow he keeps finding ways to succeed.

As for everybody else that is optimistic about what SpaceX is doing, remember what I said about the Starship program being pure entertainment? People LOVE to cheer on the underdogs, and yes SpaceX is an underdog regarding the Starship program.

So for me, yep, I'll keep defending their choices regarding Good, Fast, Cheap, because it's not costing me anything...  :D
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline chopsticks

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #74 on: 05/07/2023 06:10 pm »


(...snip...)
Perhaps personality has something to do with it. I find overly optimistic people annoying.

I will take an overly optimistic person over a cynic any day. An optimist's reach may exceed his grasp, but at least he is reaching. A pessimist never bothers.

A person should be aware of what came before, but in many cases why something was done is lost in the mists of time, and there's the real danger of "it's always been done this way because we tried this and it worked". It should be obvious that new ways to do things will not come from slavish adherence to what was done before. The old ways worked, yes, but other ways (that could have been found even then) might have worked better.

The cost of launching B7, and the cleanup, is offset by the cost avoidance of demolishing it or using up space in the rocket garden. We have no visibility into SpaceX's development process cost matrix, so harping about what they should have done is really just whining, to my ears.

The overly optimistic comment was just a reference about personality in general, not specific to SpaceX. I'm tended to be more of a pessimist by nature.

I don't think I'm a cynic (I'm much more positive than negative about Starship anyway), but I wish some people would take a more balanced approach, that's all. Is brushing mistakes under the rug a good thing? Anyway, for the last test flight, I find it intriguing to figure out what went wrong, what could have been avoided, etc. I know it doesn't change anything, but for me it's interesting.

I think it's great that SpaceX executes on first principles! But sometimes you can go too far in that direction as well. ;)

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #75 on: 05/07/2023 06:30 pm »
I disagree about this - Pythom endangered people's lives (yes, just their own, but still) for basically no reason whatsoever, and in a manner that is likely to teach them nothing and result in nothing.  There's basically nothing good to say about them except that some of them might learn they're being fools and stop, hopefully before someone dies.  Seriously - that's how bad they are.
I think he's also right in how the coverage between their launch and SX was different.  Having seen the state of the pad post takeoff, and given the fact the last test didn't achieve all engine ignition at 1/2 thrust you have to wonder how much was down to the pad debris and how much to the state of the vehicle itself.

[EDIT. A good question would be what shape was the pad in after their static fire at 50%?  If it was pristine I could see why they'd feel fairly comfortable going full thrust but if was starting to look a bit "nibbled" you'd have to wonder what's going to happen when they crank it to 100% ]
« Last Edit: 05/07/2023 07:01 pm by john smith 19 »
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline chopsticks

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #76 on: 05/07/2023 06:36 pm »
SpaceX fan from Falcon 1 days, so I've been defending SpaceX and their efforts for quite a while. Why? Because unlike bloated NASA programs we all know about, SpaceX has been doing most of their most innovate work without using any of my taxpayer money.

And I think this is an important point to remember, because ignoring the HLS program (i.e. because the 2024 date was NEVER close to being realistic) the Starship program is pure entertainment. Think about it, the vast majority of everyone that is currently expressing opinions about what SpaceX is or isn't doing right will NEVER ride on a Starship or pay to have something launched on a Starship. So it literally DOES NOT MATTER if the Starship program succeeds or not in our daily lives.

So why do SpaceX fans cheer them on, even when they have setbacks? Because SpaceX has an ambitious goal that we support.

As I said, I consider myself to be a SpaceX fan as well, and cheer them on despite their setbacks too. I just find it a little bit annoying that some people get all defensive if you point out any mistakes. You can be positive about something whilst acknowledging mistakes too you know.

Quote
Good, Fast, Cheap, pick two. That pretty much explains what we see with SpaceX, and I think people keep forgetting how SpaceX trades "Good" for "Fast" and "Cheap".

Do I have to remind everyone that the SLS program has consumed over $20B, taken far longer, and is only slightly ahead of the progress the Starship program has made? In fact the SLS program is a good example of while you can only get a maximum of two choices from Good, Fast, Cheap, you can certainly get less than two...  ;)

Yeah, I've seen that triangle before. However, I think that there is actually an argument to be made that SpaceX may have pulled off all three in regards to Falcon 9. And SLS may not have ticked any of those boxes! Definitely not fast, not cheap, and as far as "good" , well that's your call I guess.

Quote
Elon Musk has never made it easy to root for him. He has personal idiosyncrasies that certainly detract from what SpaceX the organization are doing, yet it is hard to argue that he isn't good at extremely difficult hardware projects - somehow he keeps finding ways to succeed.

As for everybody else that is optimistic about what SpaceX is doing, remember what I said about the Starship program being pure entertainment? People LOVE to cheer on the underdogs, and yes SpaceX is an underdog regarding the Starship program.

So for me, yep, I'll keep defending their choices regarding Good, Fast, Cheap, because it's not costing me anything...  :D

I try to forget about the CEO as much as possible when thinking about SpaceX, it's not good for my mental health. Lol. Totally agree about the pure entertainment part! It's fun to watch. I'm not sure I totally agree about the underdog part though, I don't think that there are any other private space companies who could afford to invest into a similar Starship program. Blue Origin I guess, but they seem so slow and unmotivated that it's hard to stay excited about them. It seems like this may hopefully be changing though, based on the recent activity at the Cape.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #77 on: 05/07/2023 06:37 pm »
It's really easy to criticize from a recliner...

Ben isn't criticizing from a recliner. The guy's actively running a space startup, and used to work at SpaceX on their ASDS program. That's frankly doing more to move space forward than probably 90% of the people on this forum...

Or were you being ironic?

~Jon
Indeed.

In fact his career path looks (superficially) quite a lot like yours, but about a decade behind you.
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #78 on: 05/07/2023 06:54 pm »
I will take an overly optimistic person over a cynic any day. An optimist's reach may exceed his grasp, but at least he is reaching. A pessimist never bothers.
Cynicsm is the simplest political doctrine. It asks nothing and offers nothing.

And actually some pessimists do bother. They just don't think what you'll get all that you hope for out of it. But they'll do it anyway.  ;)

A person should be aware of what came before, but in many cases why something was done is lost in the mists of time, and there's the real danger of "it's always been done this way because we tried this and it worked". It should be obvious that new ways to do things will not come from slavish adherence to what was done before. The old ways worked, yes, but other ways (that could have been found even then) might have worked better.
More common in this industry than many, with so much of the basic work done in the Cold War where if it didn't work within a month of starting to try out an idea it was deemed a failure and scrapped.  :(

The ongoing terror at the idea of using LOX cooling on combustion chambers despite a)Other propellant combos using the oxidizer as the coolant (HTP and NTO) as SOP and b)Successful demonstrations by both NASA and Rotary Rocket going back decades c)Rocketdyne using LOX cooling as part of its dual-expander cycle for a plug nozzle in the mid 70's suggests there is a significant part of the industry that's driven by folklore and old-wives tales.  :(

Many of which are long past time they should die.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2023 06:56 pm by john smith 19 »
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline meekGee

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #79 on: 05/07/2023 10:26 pm »
Just going to put this out there. As a fan of SpaceX and spaceflight in general, I find it incredibly annoying how it is becoming increasingly more difficult to ever criticize ANYTHING that SpaceX does, in particular with the Starship program.

It's impossible to do so, because you will just be met with "well that's just how they operate, their mantra is fail fast and learn from it". I appreciate that this is how they operate and it's very refreshing to see how quickly they are able to move and achieve great results, but I just really dislike it when you point out an obvious oversight and people run to the defensive basically say that you aren't allowed to criticise anything they do because they know better, while totally forgetting that Elon Musk himself has admitted to making dumb mistakes at SpaceX.

For example, how in the world did they overlook that Texas regulation about LNG tanks while setting up the fuel farm? Or that they built a 12 metre wide water tank with no reinforcements. Or that they thought somehow that a ~50% thrust static fire was enough to extrapolate that the pad would hold up (once) to a full thrust launch? In the end, none of these things seem to have been showstoppers, but that's not the point nor the implication.

Look, as I said, I think was SpaceX is doing and has accomplished is incredible, and I don't want to take that away from them but anytime you say something with a negative connotation you get called a concern troll.

Perhaps personality has something to do with it. I find overly optimistic people annoying.
You have a point, but there's also a flaw in the way you see things.

For sure, some of SpaceX's missteps were obvious to some outside observers.

The problem is that some of the more outrageous things they've done and succeeded in also seemed obviously dumb when they first started doing them.

I thought flying B7 with its field repairs was not a good idea, given that B8 exists  and OMG the risks to infrastructure if it RUDs.

I thought building a rocket prototype from flat sheets of metal was obviously wrong.

Turned out that the first decision was validated in retrospect, and the second simply had larger goals in mind than anyone imagined.

So most of the "defense" is simply the observation that while you may have foresaw a certain problem, but until you can show that you can also un-forsee non-problems, you don't have an actionable contribution to make.  You're just Monday morning quarterbacking.

All anyone can ever do is judge the entire program based on results, or offer meaningful commentary about individual decisions - but you can't judge the program based on cherry-picked failures.
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Offline chopsticks

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #80 on: 05/07/2023 11:26 pm »
So most of the "defense" is simply the observation that while you may have foresaw a certain problem, but until you can show that you can also un-forsee non-problems, you don't have an actionable contribution to make.  You're just Monday morning quarterbacking.

All anyone can ever do is judge the entire program based on results, or offer meaningful commentary about individual decisions - but you can't judge the program based on cherry-picked failures.

See, this is exactly the problem I'm referring to. I'm not judging the whole program based on cherry picked failures. But that's how you take it and rush to the defence. All I'm doing is pointing out some flaws, that's it. So what if there's no actionable contribution to make? Do you always say positive things about absolutely everything that you have no control over? That's a bit absurd, is it not?
« Last Edit: 05/07/2023 11:27 pm by chopsticks »

Offline meekGee

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #81 on: 05/07/2023 11:50 pm »
So most of the "defense" is simply the observation that while you may have foresaw a certain problem, but until you can show that you can also un-forsee non-problems, you don't have an actionable contribution to make.  You're just Monday morning quarterbacking.

All anyone can ever do is judge the entire program based on results, or offer meaningful commentary about individual decisions - but you can't judge the program based on cherry-picked failures.

See, this is exactly the problem I'm referring to. I'm not judging the whole program based on cherry picked failures. But that's how you take it and rush to the defence. All I'm doing is pointing out some flaws, that's it. So what if there's no actionable contribution to make? Do you always say positive things about absolutely everything that you have no control over? That's a bit absurd, is it not?
Maybe that's what you're trying to convey, but that's not what's coming out.

I mean, look at the list of examples you came up with...

Anyone saying the concrete design was marginal or insufficient is fine by my book.

Anyone saying after the fact that SpaceX is making many choices that any expert (or the poster) would tell them were wrong - that's basically confirmation bias.

You take the things that didn't work and find evidence that some people warned them and they didn't heed expert advice etc.  That's the weak part.

Many people told them "it'll never work" on almost anything they tried. So that criticism is not valid, and it's got nothing to do with being reflexively defensive.
« Last Edit: 05/08/2023 12:02 am by meekGee »
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Offline redneck

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #82 on: 05/08/2023 12:05 am »
Quote from: chop
[/quote

Good, Fast, Cheap, pick two. That pretty much explains what we see with SpaceX, and I think people keep forgetting how SpaceX trades "Good" for "Fast" and "Cheap".

Do I have to remind everyone that the SLS program has consumed over $20B, taken far longer, and is only slightly ahead of the progress the Starship program has made? In fact the SLS program is a good example of while you can only get a maximum of two choices from Good, Fast, Cheap, you can certainly get less than two...  ;)

Quote
Perhaps personality has something to do with it. I find overly optimistic people annoying.





I'll disagree with a couple of your observations.

I prefer the Henry Spencer variant "Good, Fast, Cheap, same old management" pick any three. Likely most of us have worked in situations with management being an obstacle to performance. AND at companies where problems seemed to be infrequent and handled quickly with low friction. The second type outperforming the first by wide margins. I have seen three to one ratios in fairly simple projects. Complex ones can be far worse. So my disagreement is that one of the three in the triangle absolutely must give way to accomplish the others. Facon9 vs everything before.

Second is that SLS is ahead. It hit first successful test flight. Beyond that, how long before it flies a true mission that is not simply naval gazing its' own performance? And while waiting on that, how many test flights will Starship have, AND how many operational missions?

I don't believe the above contradicts my opinion that SpaceX is working through an unforced error of going too big on the first trip out of the methane/Raptor/stainless/RLV upper gate. IMO a smaller methane Raptor based precursor could be in revenue service already while retiring many of the remaining development and operational questions.
« Last Edit: 05/08/2023 12:08 am by redneck »

Offline chopsticks

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #83 on: 05/08/2023 12:21 am »
So most of the "defense" is simply the observation that while you may have foresaw a certain problem, but until you can show that you can also un-forsee non-problems, you don't have an actionable contribution to make.  You're just Monday morning quarterbacking.

All anyone can ever do is judge the entire program based on results, or offer meaningful commentary about individual decisions - but you can't judge the program based on cherry-picked failures.

See, this is exactly the problem I'm referring to. I'm not judging the whole program based on cherry picked failures. But that's how you take it and rush to the defence. All I'm doing is pointing out some flaws, that's it. So what if there's no actionable contribution to make? Do you always say positive things about absolutely everything that you have no control over? That's a bit absurd, is it not?
Maybe that's what you're trying to convey, but that's not what's coming out.

I mean, look at the list of examples you came up with...

Anyone saying the concrete design was marginal or insufficient is fine by my book.

Anyone saying after the fact that SpaceX is making many choices that any expert (or the poster) would tell them were wrong - that's basically confirmation bias.

You take the things that didn't work and find evidence that some people warned them and they didn't heed expert advice etc.  That's the weak part.

As far as confirmation bias goes - is that always a bad thing? For example, if someone predicted that there would be a lot of pad damage at full thrust and are thus proven right, is that somehow a bad thing? I think we have a hard time separating things like these sorts of predictions or assertions vs jumping to conclusions "SpaceX is doomed, etc." Confirmation bias can work the other way too, in a positive way. We all have opinions on things and if our opinion is validated by the results, we like it, whatever it is.

I don't think it's helpful to make doom and gloom statements and projecting things, but I don't see anything wrong with pointing out improvements that can be made, or mistakes made, etc. It doesn't mean you're a hater.

Quote
Many people told them "it'll never work" on almost anything they tried. So that criticism is not valid, and it's got nothing to do with being reflexively defensive.

But you're leaving out the things that SpaceX tried and what didn't work. Like carbon fiber tanks for SS, parachute recovery with F9, catching the fairings with a big net, etc. The thing is, we forget those things because they moved past them and found a better solution. However, in the moment, I think it's find to point out that they may not be on the right track with something and that doesn't mean that you're a hater or a concern troll or any other insults people like throw out here as soon as you express your opinion.

Personally, I've been thinking for awhile now that they needed steel underneath the booster to protect the concrete and guess what, they're actually doing it.


Offline meekGee

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #84 on: 05/08/2023 12:29 am »
So most of the "defense" is simply the observation that while you may have foresaw a certain problem, but until you can show that you can also un-forsee non-problems, you don't have an actionable contribution to make.  You're just Monday morning quarterbacking.

All anyone can ever do is judge the entire program based on results, or offer meaningful commentary about individual decisions - but you can't judge the program based on cherry-picked failures.

See, this is exactly the problem I'm referring to. I'm not judging the whole program based on cherry picked failures. But that's how you take it and rush to the defence. All I'm doing is pointing out some flaws, that's it. So what if there's no actionable contribution to make? Do you always say positive things about absolutely everything that you have no control over? That's a bit absurd, is it not?
Maybe that's what you're trying to convey, but that's not what's coming out.

I mean, look at the list of examples you came up with...

Anyone saying the concrete design was marginal or insufficient is fine by my book.

Anyone saying after the fact that SpaceX is making many choices that any expert (or the poster) would tell them were wrong - that's basically confirmation bias.

You take the things that didn't work and find evidence that some people warned them and they didn't heed expert advice etc.  That's the weak part.

As far as confirmation bias goes - is that always a bad thing? For example, if someone predicted that there would be a lot of pad damage at full thrust and are thus proven right, is that somehow a bad thing? I think we have a hard time separating things like these sorts of predictions or assertions vs jumping to conclusions "SpaceX is doomed, etc." Confirmation bias can work the other way too, in a positive way. We all have opinions on things and if our opinion is validated by the results, we like it, whatever it is.

I don't think it's helpful to make doom and gloom statements and projecting things, but I don't see anything wrong with pointing out improvements that can be made, or mistakes made, etc. It doesn't mean you're a hater.

Quote
Many people told them "it'll never work" on almost anything they tried. So that criticism is not valid, and it's got nothing to do with being reflexively defensive.

But you're leaving out the things that SpaceX tried and what didn't work. Like carbon fiber tanks for SS, parachute recovery with F9, catching the fairings with a big net, etc. The thing is, we forget those things because they moved past them and found a better solution. However, in the moment, I think it's find to point out that they may not be on the right track with something and that doesn't mean that you're a hater or a concern troll or any other insults people like throw out here as soon as you express your opinion.

Personally, I've been thinking for awhile now that they needed steel underneath the booster to protect the concrete and guess what, they're actually doing it.
Many of us looked at the bare concrete sideways.

And of course it's acknowledged some of SpaceX's attempts to find out whether something is really necessary showed that it very much was.

But during years of following SpaceX they've done many things that I looked sideways at, and that proved to be successful.

There was an equal amount of expert opinions that building rockets using shipyard techniques was a fool's errand.

So you tell me how you know in advance which of the obviously stupid ideas is going to fail and which will succeed.

When someone has that dialed, they can start generalizing about the wisdom of doing things that are "obviously dumb".
« Last Edit: 05/08/2023 12:45 am by meekGee »
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Offline mn

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #85 on: 05/08/2023 01:53 am »
SpaceX will try things that seem impossible as long as they don't violate the laws of physics and they sometimes find a way to do it and sometimes find that even though it is possible it is too difficult and not worth the continued effort. (and then they often find a different solution so they don't have to keep chasing the thing that is proving too difficult)

Somehow building a tank farm that violates regulations doesn't fit this paradigm. I'd love someone to explain what were they thinking and how it fits the paradigm.

Offline matthewkantar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #86 on: 05/08/2023 02:51 am »
SpaceX will try things that seem impossible as long as they don't violate the laws of physics and they sometimes find a way to do it and sometimes find that even though it is possible it is too difficult and not worth the continued effort. (and then they often find a different solution so they don't have to keep chasing the thing that is proving too difficult)

Somehow building a tank farm that violates regulations doesn't fit this paradigm. I'd love someone to explain what were they thinking and how it fits the paradigm.

My guess is that CH4 tanks were long lead time or expensive, or both, maybe effected by Covid. They reasoned that they were already making CH4 tanks designed for flight loads, just make a few more to leave on the ground. Provides tank making practice as a bonus.

That such tankage is a heavily regulated item may not have come up?

Offline Coastal Ron

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #87 on: 05/08/2023 02:58 am »
As far as confirmation bias goes - is that always a bad thing? For example, if someone predicted that there would be a lot of pad damage at full thrust and are thus proven right, is that somehow a bad thing?

Because in a world of over 8 Billion people, you could find a guess for every single possible failure mode, regardless if it happens or not. So how meaningful is that, especially when the vast majority of "predictions" are most likely based on incomplete knowledge of the actual situation?

It is like a HUGE game of "Failure Bingo", with everyone having a chance to be right at something that happened. Are we supposed to cheer on the person that had the right combination of "predicted" failures on the launch, and then consider them a prophet?

Quote
I think we have a hard time separating things like these sorts of predictions or assertions vs jumping to conclusions "SpaceX is doomed, etc." Confirmation bias can work the other way too, in a positive way. We all have opinions on things and if our opinion is validated by the results, we like it, whatever it is.

Sure, there is a HUGE game of "Success Bingo" that happens too, but that doesn't seem to generate the same level of discourse...  ;)

Quote
I don't think it's helpful to make doom and gloom statements and projecting things, but I don't see anything wrong with pointing out improvements that can be made, or mistakes made, etc. It doesn't mean you're a hater.

Yeah, but is SpaceX really listening to the space forums to get advice about what they should do? We can speculate, but again we DO NOT have any data, all we have is pictures from a large cadre of space enthusiasts from outside the borders of SpaceX property. There is a limit to what we can state as "fact", for anything.

Quote
Personally, I've been thinking for awhile now that they needed steel underneath the booster to protect the concrete and guess what, they're actually doing it.

Well you can punch that square of your "Failure Bingo" card, but I didn't think that. But I really don't understand the forces at hand, and quite honestly I don't follow the Starship program that closely. As I've mentioned previously it is a tremendous source of entertainment for me, and I kind of leave it at that...  :D
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Offline meekGee

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #88 on: 05/08/2023 03:45 am »
SpaceX will try things that seem impossible as long as they don't violate the laws of physics and they sometimes find a way to do it and sometimes find that even though it is possible it is too difficult and not worth the continued effort. (and then they often find a different solution so they don't have to keep chasing the thing that is proving too difficult)

Somehow building a tank farm that violates regulations doesn't fit this paradigm. I'd love someone to explain what were they thinking and how it fits the paradigm.
One of:

1) A combination of bad knowledge at one level and bad communication at another (no org is monolithic)

2) Reality being more complicated than the cartoon scenario depicted by some, multiple regulations/agencies being involved, different types of certification being applicable, etc

3) A judgement call going not how they thought it would, and construction starting before the results were in since standard tanks were scarce.

It didn't exactly result in much harm though, right?  We don't even know if it caused any delay since we don't know what the alternatives were.
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Offline john smith 19

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #89 on: 05/08/2023 06:13 am »
I'll disagree with a couple of your observations.

I prefer the Henry Spencer variant "Good, Fast, Cheap, same old management" pick any three. Likely most of us have worked in situations with management being an obstacle to performance. AND at companies where problems seemed to be infrequent and handled quickly with low friction. The second type outperforming the first by wide margins. I have seen three to one ratios in fairly simple projects. Complex ones can be far worse. So my disagreement is that one of the three in the triangle absolutely must give way to accomplish the others. Facon9 vs everything before.
Now there's a name you don't see mentioned too often these days.  :(

He was right though. Without management commitment nothing changes. 

BTW I think you missed a [ /]. I spent a while trying to find a Coastal Ron quote with "Henry" in it.

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Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #90 on: 05/08/2023 07:38 am »
You don’t make so many decisions, so fast, across so many ventures as Elon does, without taking some risk along the way.

Else no one man would ever achieve as much across so many fields of endeavour as he has over the last 20 years.

I’ve often heard him effectively shrug and say:”What’s the worst that could happen”, as he goes ahead with an idea.

So they dug a hole in the launch mount. Big deal. Way too much pearl clutching over what’s really not that big an issue.
« Last Edit: 05/08/2023 07:51 am by M.E.T. »

Offline redneck

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #91 on: 05/08/2023 07:51 am »
I'll disagree with a couple of your observations.

I prefer the Henry Spencer variant "Good, Fast, Cheap, same old management" pick any three. Likely most of us have worked in situations with management being an obstacle to performance. AND at companies where problems seemed to be infrequent and handled quickly with low friction. The second type outperforming the first by wide margins. I have seen three to one ratios in fairly simple projects. Complex ones can be far worse. So my disagreement is that one of the three in the triangle absolutely must give way to accomplish the others. Facon9 vs everything before.
Now there's a name you don't see mentioned too often these days.  :(

He was right though. Without management commitment nothing changes. 

BTW I think you missed a [ /]. I spent a while trying to find a Coastal Ron quote with "Henry" in it.

Henry is still posting on arocket with the same level of wisdom. I remember losing arguments with him on usenet in the late 90s and discussions at Space Access conferences a couple of decades back.

I still don't have quoting down properly here, apologies.

Offline Kiwi53

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #92 on: 05/08/2023 09:06 pm »
SpaceX will try things that seem impossible as long as they don't violate the laws of physics and they sometimes find a way to do it and sometimes find that even though it is possible it is too difficult and not worth the continued effort. (and then they often find a different solution so they don't have to keep chasing the thing that is proving too difficult)

Somehow building a tank farm that violates regulations doesn't fit this paradigm. I'd love someone to explain what were they thinking and how it fits the paradigm.

That's actually an easy mistake to understand:
A young (aren't they all young at SpaceX?  ;) ) not-from-Texas engineer is tasked to lead the tank farm design team. One of the many jobs to do is to work out the regulatory framework. They - or a subordinate - make a reasonably diligent search through the County and State legislation to discover what are the regulations for storing LNG, and find nothing at all.
"That's weird" they think. They may even say to the team "Hey guys, do you know there's no State or County regulations about storing LNG or LCH4? That's Texas, I guess!". It never even entered their minds that the railroad regulator would have anything to do with it, I mean, the nearest railroad is literally miles from Boca Chica.

That's bureaucracy for you!

Offline dondar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #93 on: 05/10/2023 04:03 pm »
Everything you do costs time and money....Or in another words "path of innovation and access to resources"
Taking engineering resources to build something that's not needed dearly (as in nothing works without) is not only bad in terms of misusing precious engineering resources. There is nothing  worse for an engineer performance than waiting game....

I find it peculiar that a person who claims to be working in SpaceX as an executive during "20k$" times bothers comparing Starship program with SLS. Just basically all of his arguments.... What did he do in SpaceX really?

Online eeergo

Everything you do costs time and money....Or in another words "path of innovation and access to resources"
Taking engineering resources to build something that's not needed dearly (as in nothing works without) is not only bad in terms of misusing precious engineering resources. There is nothing  worse for an engineer performance than waiting game....

I find it peculiar that a person who claims to be working in SpaceX as an executive during "20k$" times bothers comparing Starship program with SLS. Just basically all of his arguments.... What did he do in SpaceX really?

Ahhh some good ad-hominem to add to the pile.

I detailed in the OP what the person did during his time at SpaceX, which even if it were little (it wasn't) would be more than (most/all?) dismissive posters here put together: actually developing things that worked and continue to do so without so much destruction, rule-bending and hubris, plus admitting mistakes and showing the dangers of letting a certain philosophy get too far.
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Online JamesH65

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #95 on: 05/11/2023 09:16 am »
Everything you do costs time and money....Or in another words "path of innovation and access to resources"
Taking engineering resources to build something that's not needed dearly (as in nothing works without) is not only bad in terms of misusing precious engineering resources. There is nothing  worse for an engineer performance than waiting game....

I find it peculiar that a person who claims to be working in SpaceX as an executive during "20k$" times bothers comparing Starship program with SLS. Just basically all of his arguments.... What did he do in SpaceX really?

Ahhh some good ad-hominem to add to the pile.

I detailed in the OP what the person did during his time at SpaceX, which even if it were little (it wasn't) would be more than (most/all?) dismissive posters here put together: actually developing things that worked and continue to do so without so much destruction, rule-bending and hubris, plus admitting mistakes and showing the dangers of letting a certain philosophy get too far.

"The author is a former SpaceX lead engineer responsible for the successful debut of F9 v1.1 in Falcon 9's 6th flight in 2013, as well as leading the design of the ASDS barges."

So, they went from working on rockets to working on barges? If someone is taken off rocket development and put into barge development, that does sort of imply that they are better suited to the barges than the rockets. Which may have implications for this conversation.


Online eeergo

Everything you do costs time and money....Or in another words "path of innovation and access to resources"
Taking engineering resources to build something that's not needed dearly (as in nothing works without) is not only bad in terms of misusing precious engineering resources. There is nothing  worse for an engineer performance than waiting game....

I find it peculiar that a person who claims to be working in SpaceX as an executive during "20k$" times bothers comparing Starship program with SLS. Just basically all of his arguments.... What did he do in SpaceX really?

Ahhh some good ad-hominem to add to the pile.

I detailed in the OP what the person did during his time at SpaceX, which even if it were little (it wasn't) would be more than (most/all?) dismissive posters here put together: actually developing things that worked and continue to do so without so much destruction, rule-bending and hubris, plus admitting mistakes and showing the dangers of letting a certain philosophy get too far.

"The author is a former SpaceX lead engineer responsible for the successful debut of F9 v1.1 in Falcon 9's 6th flight in 2013, as well as leading the design of the ASDS barges."

So, they went from working on rockets to working on barges? If someone is taken off rocket development and put into barge development, that does sort of imply that they are better suited to the barges than the rockets. Which may have implications for this conversation.

Seriously, before passing judgment and suggesting demotions about professionals that made F9 what it is today, in both launch and recovery operations, take at least a moment before going down the dismissiveness path just because you don't like their conclusions, and at the very least actually search their online profile.

He worked on launch pads, and then moved to landing pads, and now has his own company for both.
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Offline matthewkantar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #97 on: 05/11/2023 01:21 pm »
He worked on launch pads, and then moved to landing pads, and now has his own company for both.

And will never be hired by SpaceX to do either. As a competitor bad mouthing the competition, some pushback is expected.

Online eeergo

He worked on launch pads, and then moved to landing pads, and now has his own company for both.

And will never be hired by SpaceX to do either. As a competitor bad mouthing the competition, some pushback is expected.

Do you realize he's not badmouthing, but applying lessons learned by SpaceX themselves during his years there? As far as I know the company hasn't pushed back, unless you're a SpaceX representative - are you?

Also, what in the world are you talking about when you state he will "never be hired by SpaceX to do either"? He's already been hired, and he moved on to entrepreneurship on his own - or do you have information that suggests he was fired? EDIT: Actually, if you look in his Linkedin account, there's high praise from then-VP of SpaceX Lee Rosen stating that he was top-of-the-line and decided on his own to leave the company, that he'd "hire him again in a heartbeat" and that he had his full endorsement...

I sometimes wonder whether Elon himself would be subject to this treatment by the unfailingly faithful if he came out to say such things.
« Last Edit: 05/11/2023 01:36 pm by eeergo »
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Offline spacenut

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #99 on: 05/11/2023 01:51 pm »
SpaceX has been in business for over 20 years.  They have seen a lot of people come and go.  Even Mueller, who designed the Merlin engine is gone.  Lessons those people who left learned for Falcon 9 may all have taken those lessons with them.  Starship probably has a whole new group of people working on it.  Same with launch mount. 

Another thing, Pad 39a and 40 were already built back in the 1960's to take rockets that had more thrust than F9 and FH.  All they had to do was modify equipment to fit F9/FH.  They didn't design or build the launch pads themselves.  Not the same thing with Starship/Superheavy pad. 

Elon did use the milk stool method like they did with Saturn 1 to fit the Saturn V access mounts.  However, Saturn 1 was a lot less powerful than Saturn V. 

So, building a launch pad for Starship/Superheavy was and is a whole new learning experience.  So this former SpaceX employee doesn't really know what he is talking about, since he was using existing pads for the Falcon rockets which had less thrust than the pads could handle.  Starship required new designs and ideas for a launch pad.  This is one reason why launching offshore is and was being considered.  Sorry, but critique from a former SpaceX engineer isn't revelant for a less powerful rocket using launch pads already designed for more powerful rockets. 

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #100 on: 05/11/2023 02:01 pm »
I think he does know what he’s talking about but your point about the churn is correct. If experienced people go start their own businesses, then you’re gonna have to relearn a lot of the same lessons. And you are also correct that the lessons aren’t quite the same as previous falcon launch pads were probably over-built, and this was actually just a one-off launch in this configuration, not planned for many launches.

I think a lot of outside observers are hyper focusing on the dramatic launch pad damage when the main issue with the flight that might hold up future launches is the FTS. Considering the speed of repair, it actually seems increasingly like a justifiable risk to take (unlike the FTS!).
« Last Edit: 05/11/2023 02:06 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline matthewkantar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #101 on: 05/11/2023 04:21 pm »
He worked on launch pads, and then moved to landing pads, and now has his own company for both.

And will never be hired by SpaceX to do either. As a competitor bad mouthing the competition, some pushback is expected.

Do you realize he's not badmouthing, but applying lessons learned by SpaceX themselves during his years there? As far as I know the company hasn't pushed back, unless you're a SpaceX representative - are you?

Also, what in the world are you talking about when you state he will "never be hired by SpaceX to do either"? He's already been hired, and he moved on to entrepreneurship on his own - or do you have information that suggests he was fired? EDIT: Actually, if you look in his Linkedin account, there's high praise from then-VP of SpaceX Lee Rosen stating that he was top-of-the-line and decided on his own to leave the company, that he'd "hire him again in a heartbeat" and that he had his full endorsement...

I sometimes wonder whether Elon himself would be subject to this treatment by the unfailingly faithful if he came out to say such things.

Huh? No I am not affiliated with SpaceX.  Are you afflicted with rabies?

His company won’t be hired by SpaceX, SpaceX GSE and what not is done in house.

You read a lot into my post that isn’t there. He is indeed badmouthing SpaceX. Criticizing, second guessing, s@@t talking, Monday morning quarterbacking, whatever you want to call it, his position is that SpaceX is less competent without him.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #102 on: 05/13/2023 10:30 am »
I think he does know what he’s talking about but your point about the churn is correct.
Indeed.

When aerospace companies say "We're a safe pair of hands. We've been doing this since the 60's" my BS detectors pings like a geiger counter in an old Soviet nuclear submarine.

a)The staff from that era are either dead or retired. b)They may not have written down a lot of what they learned.

If so (and for "60's" substitute pretty much any decades since) what you've really got is "Well, we did it back then, so we know it can be done." And that's about all.  :(

It's called "Knowledge capture" and it's a major issue for all tech companies that don't want to keep reinventing the wheel.

All those old reports aerospace company staff wrote might have told their competitors how they did something, but they also reminded the employer how it was done, in case the author(s) left (or ultimately retired. No one lives forever)

SX is no different from any tech company that's a)Been in business decades b)Has a staff turnover rate above 0 in it's design and implementation departments (the old HP, before it was parasitised by Compaq, was pretty good at this. I doubt it's anything special today  :(  ).

But AFAIK SX doesn't publish much and I've never seen a paper on launch pad construction techniques, but that maybe because  I've been looking in aerospace journals, not civil engineering. Maybe one of the NASA SP8000 series? :(

Of course if SX require all their key staff to keep a log of their key discoveries (on the corporate server, naturally) then retaining that "corporate memory" just requires a good backup regime and effective search tools. Their current team can pick up exactly where their predecessors left it.

Time will tell how many of those lessons were remembered and how many will have to be learnt.  :(
« Last Edit: 05/13/2023 10:41 am by john smith 19 »
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Offline ZachF

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #103 on: 05/13/2023 11:30 am »
Just going to put this out there. As a fan of SpaceX and spaceflight in general, I find it incredibly annoying how it is becoming increasingly more difficult to ever criticize ANYTHING that SpaceX does, in particular with the Starship program.

It's impossible to do so, because you will just be met with "well that's just how they operate, their mantra is fail fast and learn from it". I appreciate that this is how they operate and it's very refreshing to see how quickly they are able to move and achieve great results, but I just really dislike it when you point out an obvious oversight and people run to the defensive basically say that you aren't allowed to criticise anything they do because they know better, while totally forgetting that Elon Musk himself has admitted to making dumb mistakes at SpaceX.

For example, how in the world did they overlook that Texas regulation about LNG tanks while setting up the fuel farm? Or that they built a 12 metre wide water tank with no reinforcements. Or that they thought somehow that a ~50% thrust static fire was enough to extrapolate that the pad would hold up (once) to a full thrust launch? In the end, none of these things seem to have been showstoppers, but that's not the point nor the implication.

Look, as I said, I think was SpaceX is doing and has accomplished is incredible, and I don't want to take that away from them but anytime you say something with a negative connotation you get called a concern troll.

Perhaps personality has something to do with it. I find overly optimistic people annoying.

It has to do with most criticism of SpaceX being bad faith, some of it incredibly so… but ‘most’ does not equal ‘all’, and some forget that.

But the last point about optimistic people, we honestly need more as modern society seems faaaaaar more heavily biased towards blackpill/doomerist thinking, which is much more obnoxious and leading to civilizational sclerosis in the west.

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Offline ZachF

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #104 on: 05/14/2023 02:30 pm »
Some context; SpaceX vs the rest of the world combined in dV adjusted tonnage to space, 1957 to projected 2023

(Red is RoW, blue SX… I know there’s no labels I stink at mobile sheets  :-[ )

SpaceX has 445 adjusted tonnes to orbit so far this year, with the year 37% complete, on track for 1,200t total.

To put in perspective how impressive this number is, the number for Chinese space program during its entire existence is 2,200t, and Europe is 3,200t.
« Last Edit: 05/14/2023 02:41 pm by ZachF »
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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #105 on: 05/14/2023 02:50 pm »
Maroon: USSR/Russia
Blue: USA ex-SpaceX
Yellow: SpaceX
Green: Europe
Orange: China
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Offline DeimosDream

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #106 on: 05/15/2023 12:32 pm »
When aerospace companies say "We're a safe pair of hands. We've been doing this since the 60's" my BS detectors pings like a geiger counter in an old Soviet nuclear submarine.

a)The staff from that era are either dead or retired. b)They may not have written down a lot of what they learned.

If so (and for "60's" substitute pretty much any decades since) what you've really got is "Well, we did it back then, so we know it can be done." And that's about all.  :(

It's called "Knowledge capture" and it's a major issue for all tech companies that don't want to keep reinventing the wheel.

All those old reports aerospace company staff wrote might have told their competitors how they did something, but they also reminded the employer how it was done, in case the author(s) left (or ultimately retired. No one lives forever)

SX is no different from any tech company that's a)Been in business decades b)Has a staff turnover rate above 0 in it's design and implementation departments (the old HP, before it was parasitised by Compaq, was pretty good at this. I doubt it's anything special today  :(  ).

But AFAIK SX doesn't publish much and I've never seen a paper on launch pad construction techniques, but that maybe because  I've been looking in aerospace journals, not civil engineering. Maybe one of the NASA SP8000 series? :(

Of course if SX require all their key staff to keep a log of their key discoveries (on the corporate server, naturally) then retaining that "corporate memory" just requires a good backup regime and effective search tools. Their current team can pick up exactly where their predecessors left it.

Time will tell how many of those lessons were remembered and how many will have to be learnt.  :(

SpaceX isn't just another tech company. They are an AS9100 compliant tech company whose implementation was found acceptable to be both an NSSL Phase 2 winner and fly crewed missions for NASA. They might have lost documentation on Why, but everything on How Falcon/Dragon need to build, tested, and operated will have been meticulously documented internally.

Of course, Starship != Falcon/Dragon so some wheels will have to be reinvented, some new lessons will have to be learned... and others reinvented/relearned out of an optimistic attempt to build a better mousetrap. Often scrappy vs crappy will come down to risk/reward management. The author calls out the barge wing extensions as crappy, but a low-cost risk-reduction seems pretty scrappy to me. Likewise launching without the pad plate may have led to bad PR optics, but they seem to have judged the damage risk/repairability correctly.

My scrappy/crappy question is why they launched the Starship with the full heatshield on the first flight instead of swapping the order with the next no-heatshield-planned ship.

Offline woods170

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #107 on: 05/15/2023 12:43 pm »
<snip>
My scrappy/crappy question is why they launched the Starship with the full heatshield on the first flight instead of swapping the order with the next no-heatshield-planned ship.

Because the next no-heatshield ship had stacking clamps that were not compatible with B7. No matter what would have happened to S24, the TPS tiles would still be lost. Had S24 not flown but sent for scrapping instead, then the tiles would have been scrapped too. In reality however the vehicle flew, and the tiles were still lost (regardless of the outcome: had S24 completed the mission then those tiles would have sunk to the bottom of the ocean).
So, keeping THAT in mind meant that there was nothing to gain, nor anything to lose (TPS-wise), from switching S24 for a tile-less replacement.

Offline volker2020

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #108 on: 05/15/2023 01:03 pm »
For me the big elephant in the room, is the assumption, that Space Flight did work so far and that SpaceX should learn from that.

While that may be true for some technical elements, for me the premise is absolutely wrong. Space Flight does not work, since it is way to expensive. If we ever want to do more in Space, the costs have to sink a lot.
So no, SpaceX don't try to replicate what others tried for decades without real advancement. Continue to blow up things, and maybe at the end we have the means to utilize Space. Otherwise Space will always be a niche market for Communication Satellites and military applications.

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #109 on: 05/15/2023 01:21 pm »

But AFAIK SX doesn't publish much and I've never seen a paper on launch pad construction techniques, but that maybe because  I've been looking in aerospace journals, not civil engineering. Maybe one of the NASA SP8000 series? :(


NASA has nothing to do with SpaceX construction, therefore it won't be any NASA documents on it.

edited.
« Last Edit: 05/15/2023 02:47 pm by Jim »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #110 on: 05/15/2023 01:55 pm »
There’s a bunch of stuff on NTRS.nasa.gov on flame trench/diverter/etc design. Not necessarily *construction techniques* but on the overall design and materials, including one about an angled plate with water cooling orificies.
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Offline john smith 19

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #111 on: 05/15/2023 07:49 pm »

But AFAIK SX doesn't publish much and I've never seen a paper on launch pad construction techniques, but that maybe because  I've been looking in aerospace journals, not civil engineering. Maybe one of the NASA SP8000 series? :(


NASA has nothing to do with SpaceX construction, therefore it won't be any NASA documents on it.

edited.
No it won't. Directly.

But the SP8000 reports were snapshots of the SoA of various areas of rocketry at the time they were written.

If there's one on launch pads it would have said what was being done in the US (by NASA), what had worked, and what had been proposed but not yet tried.

So while they won't teach you how to design a rocket, they will teach you about what's been shown to work.

But I don't think there ever was one for the launch pad.  :( Solid rockets, valves, computers (makes quaint reading now of course), navigation sensors of various kinds etc. 
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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #112 on: 05/15/2023 07:57 pm »
While that may be true for some technical elements, for me the premise is absolutely wrong. Space Flight does not work, since it is way to expensive. If we ever want to do more in Space, the costs have to sink a lot.
Correct. The price difference between sending a 20 foot ISO container 200Km holding say 2 tonnes horizontally against the same load vertically IE to LEO, is ridiculous.
So no, SpaceX don't try to replicate what others tried for decades without real advancement. Continue to blow up things, and maybe at the end we have the means to utilize Space. Otherwise Space will always be a niche market for Communication Satellites and military applications.
On that basis the question is actuall wheather or not SX is different enough to make that big a difference to launch prices, not its own internal costs* (which if this works should be substantially lower).


*To an accountant confusing cost with price makes no more sense than someone confusing stress with strain does to an engineer.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #113 on: 05/15/2023 08:08 pm »
They’ve already made a big difference in both. Also, SpaceX is also very vertically integrated, so even if prices don’t change much, a lot of things become possible that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, like bidding about 3000 tonnes equivalent of IMLEO launch capability to NASA for only $3 billion in the form of Artemis III’s lander and its uncrewed demonstrator.
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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #114 on: 05/16/2023 12:00 am »

But AFAIK SX doesn't publish much and I've never seen a paper on launch pad construction techniques, but that maybe because  I've been looking in aerospace journals, not civil engineering. Maybe one of the NASA SP8000 series? :(


NASA has nothing to do with SpaceX construction, therefore it won't be any NASA documents on it.

edited.
No it won't. Directly.

But the SP8000 reports were snapshots of the SoA of various areas of rocketry at the time they were written.


Of NASA funded research

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #115 on: 05/16/2023 12:09 am »
While that may be true for some technical elements, for me the premise is absolutely wrong. Space Flight does not work, since it is way to expensive. If we ever want to do more in Space, the costs have to sink a lot.
Correct. The price difference between sending a 20 foot ISO container 200Km holding say 2 tonnes horizontally against the same load vertically IE to LEO, is ridiculous.
 

Wrong, it isn't.  It is energy expended and not distance.   Fly that 2 tones at 2,400 kph for that 200 km

Offline envy887

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #116 on: 05/17/2023 01:16 am »
What i got out of the entire post. The team should have known all the things


That's also what I got out of the article, and it's a fundamentally flawed argument because I see no evidence that SpaceX would have chosen not to launch even if they DID know everything they "should" have known was going to happen with the vehicle and launch mount. There were no safety issues, vehicle anomalies were obviously expected, and fixing the launch mount post-launch won't take any longer than fixing it pre-launch would have.

The only exception is the FTS underperforming, which wasn't confirmed at the time of writing and only got a passing mention as a possible anomaly.

The argument starts with the assumption that the foreseeable results of the flight were an unacceptable result from SpaceX's point of view. That assumption is invalid, so the entire argument falls.

There's a related argument that the foreseeable results SHOULD have been unacceptable to SpaceX, but that argument isn't presented in the article, and is much more difficult to support with facts rather than opinions.

Offline Vultur

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #117 on: 05/17/2023 02:20 pm »
I agree. At the current rate of repair, the pad damage will be fixed and the steel installed before they are ready to fly again anyway (since they need to wait on FAA approval of the FTS changes for that). So the pad damage won't affect schedule.

Since the water cooled steel protection was already planned, it seems like the only thing the damage actually cost SpaceX was the cost to repair the concrete... which can't be terribly significant on their scale.

Offline abaddon

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #118 on: 05/17/2023 03:25 pm »
Not sure I agree completely with that; SpaceX will be running static fires that will be enabled by the new pad cooling and will be important risk reduction for flight two.  They don’t need a flight license for those tests, so the pad repairs plus pad qualification plus static test fires might be a longer pole than the flight two license.
« Last Edit: 05/17/2023 03:26 pm by abaddon »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #119 on: 05/17/2023 03:30 pm »
Not sure I agree completely with that; SpaceX will be running static fires that will be enabled by the new pad cooling and will be important risk reduction for flight two.  They don’t need a flight license for those tests, so the pad repairs plus pad qualification plus static test fires might be a longer pole than the flight two license.
That’s a good point, but FTS is a much bigger deal.

Additionally, they’re actually on track for achieving the flame diverter on the same timeline as they’d have had without even launching IFT.
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Offline alugobi

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #120 on: 05/17/2023 05:20 pm »
fixing the launch mount post-launch won't take any longer than fixing it pre-launch would have.
I don't think that that's right.

The mess made added days, if not weeks, to clean up that they wouldn't otherwise have had, if the surface was still intact and they could just start busting it out and digging for the substructure of the steel.  They're also replacing cladding that would still be serviceable.  Probably other stuff, too.

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #121 on: 05/17/2023 05:27 pm »
I’m not totally sure. The estimates pre-launch for how long it would take to get that flame plate installed are about the same it looks like that they’ll actually get it installed. I think the flight added urgency. The fight also eliminated uncertainty. They have solid data on what kind of loads and conditions to expect that they didn’t have before. Certainty allows expediency.

I mean, on a first principles basis and ignoring the epistemology aspect (ie hindsight, reduction in uncertainty, etc), you would expect it to take longer because there’s more work to do, but much of that work can and is being done in parallel and the epistemological aspects allow them to work faster now than they may otherwise have done.
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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #122 on: 05/17/2023 05:31 pm »
fixing the launch mount post-launch won't take any longer than fixing it pre-launch would have.
I don't think that that's right.

The mess made added days, if not weeks, to clean up that they wouldn't otherwise have had, if the surface was still intact and they could just start busting it out and digging for the substructure of the steel.  They're also replacing cladding that would still be serviceable.  Probably other stuff, too.
It appears to have been about 21 days, assuming that beginning the drilling for the new pilings is on the critical path and making some WAGs about the time needed prior to that drilling if the 4/20 damage had been minimal. To my uneducated eye, it appears that the other repair work is not on the critical path, so yes, it's extra work, but no, it does not affect the schedule unless those workers were needed on the critical path.

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #123 on: 05/17/2023 05:44 pm »
It is also quite possible they are reinforcing the pad more than they would have if they had waited for the flame trench.
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Offline envy887

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #124 on: 05/17/2023 06:35 pm »
fixing the launch mount post-launch won't take any longer than fixing it pre-launch would have.
I don't think that that's right.

The mess made added days, if not weeks, to clean up that they wouldn't otherwise have had, if the surface was still intact and they could just start busting it out and digging for the substructure of the steel.  They're also replacing cladding that would still be serviceable.  Probably other stuff, too.

More work? Probably. But they have lots of people and can do more than one thing at a time, so I don't think it would have been significantly faster to do the upgrades before launching. Clean up and cladding repair is happening in parallel with the mount upgrades, so those don't contribute to the critical path timeline.

But in the meantime, the propulsion and structures teams now have real data to chew on, which lets them do their jobs faster, and they are definitely in the critical path to program success.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #125 on: 05/17/2023 08:14 pm »

Of NASA funded research
No.

Several of them include references to the Titan 1 and 2 structures and engines. None of this (AFAIK) had anything to do with NASA (but certainly through the USAF)

I'll certainly agree a lot of it was NASA funded, but not all of it.
« Last Edit: 05/17/2023 08:15 pm by john smith 19 »
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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #126 on: 05/17/2023 08:26 pm »

Wrong, it isn't.  It is energy expended and not distance.   Fly that 2 tones at 2,400 kph for that 200 km
"Frontiers of Space" reckoned the energy to orbit was about the round trip fuel for London/Sydney.

This process is affordable because a) The hardware is reusable for 1000s of flights b)It can be turned around and reused in hours, not weeks, months or years.

When you throw away all or a substantial fraction of the vehicle on every launch it should not be surprising the costs rise enourmously.

I'm amazed this myth still exists in the third decade of the 21st century.
« Last Edit: 05/17/2023 08:32 pm by zubenelgenubi »
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Offline redneck

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #127 on: 05/17/2023 09:02 pm »

Wrong, it isn't.  It is energy expended and not distance.   Fly that 2 tones at 2,400 kph for that 200 km
"Frontiers of Space" reckoned the energy to orbit was about the round trip fuel for London/Sydney.

This process is affordable because a) The hardware is reusable for 1000s of flights b)It can be turned around and reused in hours, not weeks, months or years.

When you throw away all or a substantial fraction of the vehicle on every launch it should not be surprising the costs rise enourmously.

I'm amazed this myth still exists in the third decade of the 21st century.

Actually he threw a twist in there.  The 2,400 kph is over Mach 2    In atmosphere that can be a fuel guzzler. 

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #128 on: 05/19/2023 05:50 am »
Actually he threw a twist in there.  The 2,400 kph is over Mach 2    In atmosphere that can be a fuel guzzler.
Good point. Bono & Gatland would have been talking about subsonic aircraft. Concorde was a super-cruise aircraft for decades (a fact few people noticed or mentioned) but its fuel burn was always going to be above subsonic aircraft (although designed to be competitve with the lever of contemporary aircraft) and the upgrade would have eliminated the afterburner.
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Offline dondar

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #129 on: 05/19/2023 05:51 pm »
Everything you do costs time and money....Or in another words "path of innovation and access to resources"
Taking engineering resources to build something that's not needed dearly (as in nothing works without) is not only bad in terms of misusing precious engineering resources. There is nothing  worse for an engineer performance than waiting game....

I find it peculiar that a person who claims to be working in SpaceX as an executive during "20k$" times bothers comparing Starship program with SLS. Just basically all of his arguments.... What did he do in SpaceX really?

Ahhh some good ad-hominem to add to the pile.

I detailed in the OP what the person did during his time at SpaceX, which even if it were little (it wasn't) would be more than (most/all?) dismissive posters here put together: actually developing things that worked and continue to do so without so much destruction, rule-bending and hubris, plus admitting mistakes and showing the dangers of letting a certain philosophy get too far.
if he really participated in the projects which are practically define "SpaceX scrappingess" (the barges definitely ARE there) how could he write  what he writes now, especially if he claims he was executive? The difference between 7/20 and initial landing tests on barges is ZERO. Exactly the same major/minor filosophy (test target and minor tests if the major successful etc.), the same scrappinness (don't do the things which are not required for this test) etc.
Generally  just by observing the money flow it is obvious that SpaceX does what they do "on scraps", more of it Musk  clearly understands what industrial capacity does and what actual costs entail. So called "money burn" is very real thing. Designing what depends on the things unknown is extremely stupid double costly things etc.

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #130 on: 05/23/2023 08:55 pm »
Designing what depends on the things unknown is extremely stupid double costly things etc.
You seem to think that SS is inside the known envelope for these sorts of mission.

It's actually a long way outside that envelope. Both in size and it's attempt to be as much like a conventional stg 2 as possible.

Everyone else whose proposed vehicles on this size (EG the NASA "Nova" concepts or the Bono SSTO's) have either been completely ELV's or squat, or low aspect ratio tapered inward vehicles coming in behind the plug nozzle as a heat shield. Maximum volume in minimum possible hot surface.

In fact SS depends on the design working OK under quite a lot of unknowns, primarily the air flow, and the heating caused by that airflow. BTW the uncertainty bars on lift and drag widen as the airspeed rises. So you have to make a much larger allowance for worst case values just when you need the best possible accuracy in your predictions.  :(

We'd all like the next flight to fly the full trajectory (especially the highly interesting stg 2 reentry around Hawaii) but to be honest I'd be impressed with them managing stage 2 separation and ignition. This would be (AFAIK) the first ignition at altitude of an engine cluster with a centralised gas generator ignitor.

If that sounds unambitous keep in mind all engine ignition has (AFAIK) never been an issue for F1, F9 or FH. That ignition system was certainly developed in the "scrappy" days of SX.
 OTOH ignition has been an issue for both Stg 1 all-engine ignition attempts with SS so far.

I'm certainly looking forward to their next attempt.
« Last Edit: 05/28/2023 06:32 am by john smith 19 »
MCT ITS BFR SS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFSC engined CFRP SS structure A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of Earth & Mars atmospheric flight.First flight to Mars by end of 2022 TBC. T&C apply. Trust nothing. Run your own #s "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" R. Simberg."Competitve" means cheaper ¬cheap SCramjet proposed 1956. First +ve thrust 2004. US R&D spend to date > $10Bn. #deployed designs. Zero.

Offline thespacecow

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #131 on: 11/19/2023 06:25 am »
It turns out the Starship team is indeed scrappy and not crappy, who would have guessed...
« Last Edit: 11/19/2023 06:27 am by thespacecow »

Offline Elvis in Space

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #132 on: 11/19/2023 07:14 pm »
It turns out the Starship team is indeed scrappy and not crappy, who would have guessed...

Really. When I see people try to analyze Spacex it sort of implies that there is a better way to do this, that has never been done before, even faster and better. The closest analogue I can think of are the Apollo days of my youth. There was an abundance of scrappy and crappy there as well. And a lot more money. Is there anyone out there really disappointed with what's been accomplished thus far?
Cheeseburgers on Mars!

Offline steveleach

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #133 on: 11/19/2023 07:34 pm »
Is there anyone out there really disappointed with what's been accomplished thus far?
Yep, lots of people who be their corporate futures on SpaceX not being able to accomplish all this.

Offline rpapo

Is there anyone out there really disappointed with what's been accomplished thus far?
Yep, lots of people who bet their corporate futures on SpaceX not being able to accomplish all this.
Or those few who actually believe Elon Musk's extremely optimistic time projections.  But the thing is, even if it takes two or three times longer than he predicted, it is still much faster than the rest of the industry.  The only ones who come remotely close are Rocket Lab and the Chinese.
« Last Edit: 11/19/2023 09:12 pm by rpapo »
Following the space program since before Apollo 8.

Offline dolphin5588

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #135 on: 11/24/2023 06:49 pm »
When someone uses the verbiage at the end of this quote, there's a political tinge I want nothing to do with. I did not read.



Quote
DISCLAIMER: I want to make clear that I am not picking on SpaceX here. If you read it that way, take a deep breath, check yourself, and put down all the water you’ve been carrying for billionaires.

Offline DAA640

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #136 on: 11/24/2023 07:22 pm »
When someone uses the verbiage at the end of this quote, there's a political tinge I want nothing to do with. I did not read.



Quote
DISCLAIMER: I want to make clear that I am not picking on SpaceX here. If you read it that way, take a deep breath, check yourself, and put down all the water you’ve been carrying for billionaires.
Before I ever read the article I knew that any argument would be bad faith with that opening. By implying that people who might be upset at his unfair and untrue assertions about spacex are simply "billionaire stooges" he indicates his disdain for SpaceX fans right out the gate, as well as trying to insert a mechanism to shut down criticism of his biased musings ("well these guys are just mad because I attacked their favorite billionaire").

It was an incredibly bad faith article from the get go, made even more egregious by the writer being a competitior who builds launchpad equipment.

Online Emmettvonbrown

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Re: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer
« Reply #137 on: 11/25/2023 07:41 am »
Some posters on this thread should really have some cheese with their whinne, and cool down.
« Last Edit: 11/25/2023 07:52 am by Emmettvonbrown »

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