Author Topic: Scrappy or crappy? Critique by former SpaceX lead engineer  (Read 39205 times)

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 itís a good point that a highly engineered flame trench wouldíve allowed more static fires, BUT the overall dismissive tone in this article is really off-putting. I think heís 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 ďStarbase.Ē
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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.

Online 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 F9ís and FHís 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 Elonís 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 itís basically impossible. You canít do the ďimpossibleĒ by doing things the way theyíve 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 didnít do was test the upper stage in vacuum, which wouldíve 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 couldíve probably made progress sooner.

However, thatís traveling like a year or two back in time. If we talk about a couple weeks back in time, Iím not sure their decisionmaking was actually bad. They wouldíve had to wait 3 months for the flame diverter to be installed. Thatís STILL potentially longer than itíll 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 »
Itís literally twice as powerful as the Saturn V.
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

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 »
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