I ‘think’ Musk is pissed…

For good reason!

The left-wing media watchdog group Media Matters for America (MMFA) has a sordid record of not only publishing absurd “fact-checks” but of bullying businesses that dare to advertise on conservative outlets, or even platforms they don’t approve it. 

At 2 a.m. ET on Saturday, Musk threatened to file a ‘thermonuclear lawsuit’ against Media Matters. “The split second court opens on Monday, X Corp will be filing a thermonuclear lawsuit against Media Matters and ALL those who colluded in this fraudulent attack on our company,” Musk wrote in a post on X/Twitter.

Full article, HERE.

Everybody and their brother is going after Musk, between X and SpaceX. Starship came apart on its second test flight, and there is a lot of pressure from ‘various’ organizations to shut them down/limit their ability to fly…

BUT, we’ve been having a sidebar in a chat about SpaceX’s development program compared to the ‘old days’ between four of us old farts…

Test to fail.  All 33 engines fired; it cleared the pad with no reported pad
damage (though I thought I saw something flying as it cleared the tower); it
made it through Max-Q; it achieved stage separation with the first stage
appearing to maneuver for a “controlled” landing; it was on course; and the
second stage made it (or almost made it) to engine cutoff and coasting to

I think the autopsy will find hot staging damaged both vehicles. 

However, under the test to fail philosophy and given Musk is pushing extreme limits, I think it was quite successful. 


As I have been tracking what Musk has been doing for several years, I would suggest that your uncles approach is what he has been doing.  He’s at Boca Chica because NASA did not want to risk Pad 39A, the only human certified launch pad we have.  He started with Starhopper, a Starship prototype that reached an altitude of 500 feet in 2019 and then returned to its launch pad.  Then he tested several prototypes of the Starship second stage until one flew successfully.  Along the way he did multiple test stand engine tests, vehicle static fire tests, wet rehearsals (test launch procedures including fuel loading up to a second before ignition).  He has his rocket garden full of prototypes that never flew with some now being dismantled to make more storage room.  And, he has a feedback loop from his Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

        The problem is that no matter how extensive a table-top fault analysis is conducted, there will be surprises that can only be discovered by “test-to-failure.”  In fact, I am very concerned that Artemis 2 scheduled for (a manned) launch in November 2024, will be flown on the SLS that has only been test flown and then only once.


My engineer uncles were probably too conservative for today’s environment.  I was taught to test, test, test and then build a prototype. 


To be fair, they didn’t have the capability to do rapid prototyping!


That is true: CAD, additive manufacturing, and CNC have made design, modeling, and prototyping much, much faster.  The perhaps unfortunate side is that it has also made far more complex designs possible.

I think we all agree that Musk is using every bit of technology available to move forward as quickly as possible. In the old days, it was months if not a year between tests due to having to ‘manufacture’ new pieces/parts and seldom were parts reused…

Obviously, he’s succeeded with the Falcon program and manned program much faster than anyone expected or believed. I think he will succeed again, but there will be more big BOOMS before he does. Testing to failure DOES tend to provide those booms and sharpens the learning curve dramatically…


Hmmm… — 14 Comments

  1. I remember ALL of the rockets that NASA blew up back in the day when they first started launching rockets. I remember the press used to give them lots of grief for it too.
    Scott Manley has a good analysis and makes a good case as to what happened to Super Heavy. A friend of mine has also made a good case that the one engine that didn’t relight, wasn’t gimbaling and the engines next to it were colliding with it and that was what caused the daisy chain of failures after it flipped.
    Manley also points out something I noticed during the flight as well, that the O2 on the second stage (starship) suddenly started to decrease rather rapidly. Signaling a problem. Starship probably self-destructed once it’s guidance system realized it wasn’t going to make it to the target, in order to prevent any debris from coming down on Africa.

    All in all though, it looked to me like a pretty successful test flight for only the 2nd time Super Heavy has flown and the 1st time that Starship has flown in that flight regime. I’m not sure sure that the hot staging caused any issues.

    As for the Media Matters asshats. I remember when they used to come to conservative or ‘right wing’ blogs and harass everyone and troll and tell lies and all of that. They used to employ hundreds of people in like a big office somewhere around DC to do that. Wonder if they still do?

  2. A related thought. As a senior technologist working for a great big defense contractor, I had a fair amount of contact with our executive management. One day one of those VPs (who hadn’t done a tour in engineering on his way up) asked me why it still took 24 months do do a new phased array design despite many millions of dollars invested in design tools. I looked at him and observed he was lucky it was still only 24 months. All of the investment in design tools had gone into designing systems of ever greater complexity and the tools were barely keeping even.

    • And part of the reason it takes that long is because the engineers never get the full 24 month period to work on a stable set of requirements with consistent funding. I spent 9 years at a NASA contractor and we got about 6 months of work done each year, mostly due to funding levels that changed every budget year…

      • On contracting with the government:

        A friend worked building databases. In the 90’s, Calif hired him to build a database for CalTrans, for road repairs. They had no idea what had been done, what needed to be done, costs, etc.
        So, after maybe 18 months, of a job expected to take 24 months, he goes into work one morning to find the building has had the doors re-keyed, and a note posted that if you worked at that facility, your job was over.
        There had been an election the prior day, and a new administration was now in power. They brought in a new crew for every position that was a contract. His work was tossed, and the new guy started from scratch, as he had to get a full length contract, of course.

  3. Hereso- Thanks! That was the one I was looking for and couldn’t find it last night!

    John- Lots of review is going on, and we’re just seeing the tip of the telemetry iceberg… sigh And yes, Media Matters are assholes!

    John- Excellent point!

    Rick- Yeah, I’d forgotten about the ‘contracting’ issues… dammit!

    Will- Commiefornia writ large!

  4. NASA was saved by the fire on Apollo 1. On the pad, during routine testing, and the results and failed equipment were right there for easy access.

    Without that unfortunately fortunate accident, having a fire during launch or in space would have made figuring out what went wrong very very difficult, probably resulting in more deaths.

    As to the speed of modern engineering, remember how quickly Saturn and Apollo were built. How? Many mucho more people, many mucho more subcontractors, facilities, pieces parts coming in. SpaceX does with modern tech what it took an army-group of people to do.

    NASA did do rapid prototyping and testing to failure of a lot of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo systems. Helped by that huge number of people. NASA is still using testing facilities that were set up during the MGA era.

    Space is hard, remember?

    And the launch achieved far more than Musk expected. He gave it about a 60% chance of making it to space. Which Starship did. Just didn’t get past that.

    Want to see some fun, just look up the failures of Minuteman and the MX peacemaker. Or Trident. Or the F-22 or F-35 or any other military aircraft.

    Modern tech actually makes it easier to succeed if one applies proper engineering.

  5. In the book “Sidewinder”, by Ron Westrum, he illustrates the changes in testing philosophy. These aren’t the first generation missiles, but later versions.
    AIM-9D 129 total launches.
    AIM-9L 69 total launches.
    AIM-9M 35 total launches.
    He attributes this change to a reliance on computer testing, instead of physical testing.
    I suspect Musk’s return to physical testing is due to how many computer models have proven to be garbage.

    • Something to remember: Before WWII, every nation except Japan figured that live-fire tests of their torpedoes were too expensive. Then once torpedoes were being fired in combat, there certainly weren’t enough spares to conduct destructive tests – not until nearly 2 years of evidence had accumulated that only the Japanese torpedoes worked well. Americans, English, and Germans all had fancy magnetic detonators that were supposed to explode underneath a ship and blow the bottom in, but actually either triggered prematurely or failed to trigger at all.

      In addition to that, at least in the US Navy, submarine commanders were reporting that when they removed the magnetic detonators and installed old fashioned contact detonators, they’d seen torpedoes running straight and true, heard them thunk into the side of a ship, but no explosion. In American contact detonators, it turned out that a straight-on hard hit broke the detonator’s operating rod, although a sideswipe would trigger the detonator.

      But the single worst experience with detonators was German: Gunther Prien somehow snuck his U-47 right into the main British Navy anchorage, lined up on a battleship, and fired a full salvo – without a single detonation. There’s disagreement about exactly what happened, but they had to reload the torpedo tubes either once or twice, while expecting to be blown out of the water any moment, before they found detonators that worked to sink that battleship. (The Brits suspected an internal explosion and U-47 snuck back out the way it had come in.)

      And the American torpedoes had even a third problem, unsuspected until they started firing torpedoes for tests in their own harbors. Most of the time the torpedoes ran 10 feet deeper than set, so they could miss a Japanese ship by passing right under it. (There were also claims of torpedoes porpoising, running high and low alternately, and even jumping over a small Japanese freighter, but I know of no test that ever confirmed this.) In the 1930’s redesigns, they’d moved the depth sensor (a pressure gauge) from one side near the middle of the torpedo back to near the tail. When they tested it passively by lowering the torpedo into a pool, it was quite accurate, but when the torpedo was running, the water flow reduced the pressure near the tail.

      OTOH, a lucky result of those experiences was that many US ships set their torpedo depth quite shallow. Against the Japanese Yamato class super-battleships, torpedoes set to a normal depth would have exploded against enough torpedo protection to probably absorb the blast from the heaviest American torpedo warheads. But the shallow depth setting hit right on the invisible gap between the main armor belt around the waterline and the torpedo protection, and swarms of undersized aircraft torpedoes penetrated the gap and sank the two monsters. A third Yamato class had been converted to a gigantic carrier, but Shinano was not even complete when it was sent on a short trip to finish fitting out at a different port, and the submarine USS Archerfish nailed it right on the gap with 4 torpedoes.

  6. I don’t have to like everything he says and does, to respect the things he is getting right.

    As I understand it, he s playing with his own money and that of willing contributors. Good luck to him.

  7. Finally watched it this afternoon.

    Very cool.

    I can’t help but think that they could have used some more thinking on the coms end.

    Hopefully they have some data from the satellites for fixing that end.

    I’m sure they have people much smarter than I at this stuff, working on what they do have.

    I also think better tracking and imagery would be cool.

    Of course, they have finite money, and have been spending wisely, all considered.

  8. Musk deserves credit for many things – most of them good things. The gloves are off when it comes to Soros.

  9. Regarding the law suit filed today against Media Matters. It’s not a good idea to piss off the richest man on the planet.