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Discussion of SpaceX Statement on Zuma Mission (Failure?)

Discussion in 'SpaceX' started by AnxietyRanger, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    #1 AnxietyRanger, Jan 9, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
    Some more thoughts on the comms:

    Look, I get the motivations: SpaceX felt the need to quickly, even before any advanced research into it could be made, state that their part worked 100%. This is the very Tesla-like need to go public with full denials as fast as possible, no room for "we'll look into it and get back to you". I get that they have that culture.

    It just became muddied in this case because of the second need to still somehow acknowledge further research into this will be made (not just by them by also by others) and they needed to hedge against that. BUT then really, really again drive home the point that full denial is the word of the day.

    So all this desire resulted in a rather muddy statement, especially when it had to be limited in scope by confidentiality concerns. So I get how it came about. And I find it absolutely likely the SpaceX launch worked OK and that a third-party adapter failed once on orbit. All perfectly plausible.

    That said, personally I'm not necessarily sure this comms culture is the wisest culture (either by SpaceX or by Tesla), because it does make it seem like they'd deny anything and without sufficient time to really look into it - similar to how Tesla denies any responsibility in any public Tesla incident very quickly and comes out all guns blazing in support of that denial. Recently Tesla even denied their Roadster prototype broke down, when it was photographed stopped in the middle of the road with chocks on and rollers at the ready. (And I get it, perhaps "broke down" could be wrong by some dictionary definition, but again it just makes it look like they will deny anything and never admit to anything.)

    A bit more paced, wiser approach to PR might result in it being far more believable to a wider audience.

    IMO, from PR handling perspective, they're both just seem a bit too quick and bit too total in their denials in such cases. Some of that denial may thus be counter-productive and against their desired end-result. I do wonder if it didn't seem just a tad bit more believable if they took even just a bit of time to be comprehensive about it? If you get the reputation of always denying everything to the hilt, it is bound to leave more room for those who doubt you.

    Instead of:

    "Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible."

    How would something like this have looked:

    "From our initial reading of the telemetry, Falcon 9 worked correctly on this flight. As always, we're going to carefully review all the data and get back to you double checked findings, within the confidentiality limitations of the classified payload of course. But at this time the initial data does not support any of the suggestions that Falcon 9 didn't work as intended, so such claims seem to be categorically false. Any subsequent failure seems to have been after SpaceX's and Falcon 9's part of the mission had completed successfully. But, again, just to be very comprehensive about this, we will - and others will - check and double check and we'll get back to you of course."
     
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  2. mongo

    mongo Active Member

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    Time zones... time zones, posting at 1 a.m. is not going to get you instant gratification from the east coast/ Midwest crew.;)

    There is nothing I see contradictory .
    SpaceX:
    Is the only one with the rocket data feed
    Would be one if the first points of contact with the payload owner (esp compared to the news)

    1. Every piece of data from the rocket matches the expected values "everything nominal"
    2. If SpaceX or NG or USAF (the ones who would actually have the data) fund an anomaly with the rocket, it will be reported.
    3. Any data to this point that has been published that is contradictory to #1 is wrong/ false (not from a reliable source, see #2).
    4. We can't talk about the payload/ non-rocket side of things.

    Perfectly consistent to this pedantic enginerd. More words would make me less confident.
     
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  3. Electroman

    Electroman Active Member

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    AR: You are just overdoing it and trying hard to find some dirt somewhere someplace. Trying to read too much into those words.

    The message it conveys:

    • Everything looks good from our vantage point.
    • If in the future if we happen to learn something different, we will let you know.
    • For now there is nothing to see here, move on.

    The 2nd sentence is just a simple hedge, and in not trying to be arrogant.
     
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  4. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately I can't completely disagree, I think they doth protest a bit too much for the good of the message. A little bit more patience in the denial would frankly be more believable. Now I can't completely blame @bro1999 for thinking that way, even though I personally don't find it likely SpaceX F'ed up here - other than F'ed up the comms, that is.
     
  5. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    Anyway, just to clarify my stance, I found the PR interesting, on the actual matter I do believe SpaceX's statement.

    I'll leave the actual rocket analysis to the experts. All I understand are lowly AR HUDs... ;)
     
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  6. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    Nah, I don't believe there is any dirt in this. I believe SpaceX's story.

    I just dislike the PR style, I think it could have used some patience and wisdom. @bro1999 had a point about that IMO.
     
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  7. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    That was the other part of @bro1999's comment, which I disagreed with. This was the part I agreed somewhat with:

    The knee-jerk "we deny everything, immediately, absolutely" PR. That I think @bro1999 got right and I agreed with the sentiment, that one gets that feeling and it hurts the believability somewhat - even when in this case I disagree with @bro1999 that SpaceX F'ed up (well, I don't find it the likely scenario - who knows for sure, of course).

    I offered my suggestions on the PR in post #21.
     
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  8. mongo

    mongo Active Member

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    SpaceX has live telemetry for the entire mission (ignoring drop outs between stations since they are live again at the next one). They know what did or did not happen within seconds of it happening or not. Why wait to say something when they should already have the data to support what they are saying?

    It's not like SpaceX came out before these rumors started going around with a media blitz and said "perfect launch, nothing to see here, move along". Rumors/ questionable information was circulating and they addressed their side of things (likely after many media inquiries)

    Edit: typo
     
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  9. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    There is IMO nothing wrong with addressing the rumors. I am simply stating that the way they did it: in such a categorical and certain fashion, so immediately afterwards, suggests to me their statements weren't motivated merely by the facts of the matter, but also a business or a cultural etc. need to categorically deny. And that IMO tells us a little less of what they know and a little more of how they think. This was not a factual denial first, it was a business denial first.

    IMO there is non-zero probability that a thorough analysis of telemetry in a case like this, including that of the third-party elements there and assigning respective blame, takes more time than was available here. You don't see NASA coming out with the reason for a failed launch immediately after and that is for good reason. They will tell you what they know, but also that it will take longer than that to know for sure.

    As said, this was my suggestion in #21:

    "From our initial reading of the telemetry, Falcon 9 worked correctly on this flight. As always, we're going to carefully review all the data and get back to you double checked findings, within the confidentiality limitations of the classified payload of course. But at this time the initial data does not support any of the suggestions that Falcon 9 didn't work as intended, so such claims seem to be categorically false. Any subsequent failure seems to have been after SpaceX's and Falcon 9's part of the mission had completed successfully. But, again, just to be very comprehensive about this, we will - and others will - check and double check and we'll get back to you of course."
     
  10. Bobfitz1

    Bobfitz1 Member

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    This incident has similarities with the NYT Broder incident which tried to pull down Tesla. In that case, Tesla exposed the author's lies because they had full details showing exactly how the 'failure' was staged. As @mongo points out, SpaceX collects huge amounts of telemetry data documenting what happens on every launch down to hundredths of a second. They very well know whether the satellite separated from 2nd stage and the actions/times of what was handled by the NG payload adapter.
     
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  11. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    The likelihood of them being able to complete any kind of comprehensive failure analysis in the timeframe relevant here seems low, though. Acknowledgeing that better in their statement would IMO have made them sound more accurate and thus more believable overall to a wider audience.

    Live telemetry gives you live data, but it doesn't necessarily directly tell you what went wrong - and, thus, who is to blame.
     
  12. Electroman

    Electroman Active Member

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    Nonsense. You need to stop this drivel. It is getting more than little tiring.

    Tesla and Elon have accepted responsibility where they believe they share responsibility. Case in point: Joshua Brown's death. While stating that Brown was speeding and did not heed "keep hands on steering" warning, they also admitted that their AP clearly was blindsided by the sun and with the big white truck's background. I can't think of a single instance they were quick to shift blame, and in almost they came out with plenty of evidence.
     
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  13. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    Opinions contrary to our own are often tiring, that's why the ignore list is actually very tempting to me too. :) You are tiring to the other direction, that's just the nature of disagreement.

    As for the example you brought up, it is better to just agree to disagree there. IMO Elon's companies tend to have a culture of denying or deflecting blame quite fast in their PR. I would love to see a slight course correction in that (see my suggestion in message #21 in this case, for example) and IMO it would be to their benefit too.

    I fully respect other opinions in this SpaceX case, of course. Just explaining mine on why I think the PR could have been better. I don't find it likely SpaceX is at fault here, so no disagreement there.
     
  14. jimmy_d

    jimmy_d Deep Learning Dork

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    This whole thing is comical.

    Unknown source: ???????????
    Press: SpaceX dirt? I have SpaceX dirt! Yaaaay!
    Other Press: repeat SpaceX dirt, repeat SpaceX dirt
    SpaceX: absolutely nothing went wrong at our end
    Northrop Grumman: no comment
    Press: repeat SpaceX dirt, repeat SpaceX dirt
     
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  15. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    #15 AnxietyRanger, Jan 10, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
    This here is my point. The PR would have been more believable if they would have left more room for the analysis.

    While I can see a scenario where everything indeed went to plan for SpaceX, and that it is perfectly obvious to all from telemetry, in reality we can not know that. I agree with you it is possible, but we can not know that for sure, so we can't analyze their PR from that assumption. We must consider the possibility that it is more complex, even though my thesis/assumption too is that SpaceX was not at fault. IMO your comment does not really consider the complex scenario.

    Re: the denial, we can not know if they denied things more based on business reasons (felt a quick, total denial was needed even while analysis yet partial), or because it was a very clear case (e.g. satellite deployed and only failed afterwards). But even in the case of satellite deploying, there is bound to be analysis of the whole delivery process and responsibilities there. A little more scientific PR statement would thus IMO have been more believable. Rushing to deny all and sundry didn't press all the right buttons IMO.

    Then again, Tesla continued with normal operations after the MobilEye split and look what happened with EAP there. ;) Keeping busy is no proof of anything, if we are objective about this. Sure, I agree it makes no fault plausible (i.e. stopping everything would suggest to opposite in a rocket launch business) and is one reason why I also find it more likely SpaceX was not at fault here, but in reality we have very little "evidence" of that. We have a statement from a company that has a business interest to deny fault. That's not really evidence.

    To me it seems most of this thread has already decided that any fault seeking in SpaceX is automatically an unfair attack (to the extent that there are personal attacks on members of TMC and senate alike) and IMO we'd be wise to tone down such thinking. It tends to blind us from objective truth seeking. I'm not saying analyzing members and senators wouldn't be a part of objective truth seeking, but I think everyone should always remember to check that they also consider all the alternatives and are not leaving something out e.g. due to personal bias (which we all have of course, that's only human).
     
  16. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    Finding this likely is one thing. In reality, we don't know this. The audience listening to SpaceX PR does not know this. And if SpaceX comes across too much as "Nothing to see here people, nothing to see here people", or Baghdad Bob, then that's IMO where a PR course correction would be warranted. As I said in post #21, simply reformulating the statement would have IMO made it much better (and also made it much easier to add to the info should anything appear).

    IMO there seems to be some experience out there that Elon's companies (e.g. Tesla and crashes and customer logs) have a stricter than usual desire to go public with total denials of fault very quickly after an event. I would love to see this culture adjusted a bit. Now I must admit I can't always completely believe the denials (even if in this case I do believe it most likely SpaceX is not fault), because to me they seem too quick, too complete to always possibly be fully objective - so one assumes they are part driven by business requirements rather than the facts of the event. In this sense I find this kind of PR counter-productive. I don't think SpaceX was at fault here likely, but after their PR statement I tend to doubt them a bit more than I did before the statement - and that's the issue IMO, because I don't think I'm the only one.

    With a bit more conversational tone they could improve this IMO and strike a better balanace between, say, legal or market reasons, and a good correspondence with the public. IMO that includes not trying to sound too infallible.
     
  17. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Well-Known Member

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    Here's how you have quoted the first part of SpaceX's statement:

    Here's the actual first part of the statement:

    Your quote was unqualified. The statement was qualified. Removing the qualification changes the meaning.
     
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  18. jaguar36

    jaguar36 Active Member

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    Just because SpaceX says the rocket "did everything correctly" does not mean they were not at fault. Its quite possible that there was a communications issue between NG and SpaceX (either during the design phase or during the launch itself) that caused the failure. Something where SpaceX thinks it all went well, but because of a misunderstanding between them the NG adapter didn't respond properly.

    I don't think the public will ever hear anything more about the failure (assuming it did indeed fail), and we are all just rampantly speculating about what could have happened based on our preconceived biases. Personally I think its very likely that NG was at fault, but that SpaceX shares some of the blame as well.
     
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  19. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    #19 AnxietyRanger, Jan 11, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
    @ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    Fair addition, at some point in the thread that quote was shortened in the messages (unintentionally on my part anyway). I did read it and felt the following chapters had the issues in them that were discussed. Anyone wanting the full context, see post #11.

    Anyway, to my opinion, I felt the claims were too categorical and borderline contradictory in the way they were formulated. I would have personally preferred a little more ambiguity to the tune of my suggestion in #21 while they go through their reviews. Something like this:

    "From our initial reading of the telemetry, Falcon 9 worked correctly on this flight. As always, we're going to carefully review all the data and get back to you double checked findings, within the confidentiality limitations of the classified payload of course. But at this time the initial data does not support any of the suggestions that Falcon 9 didn't work as intended, so such claims seem to be categorically false. Any subsequent failure seems to have been after SpaceX's and Falcon 9's part of the mission had completed successfully. But, again, just to be very comprehensive about this, we will - and others will - check and double check and we'll get back to you of course."

    My issue has been with the suggestion that they could have gone through everything in this timeframe to make the definitive statement that they did - it was qualified, and it contained the promise to return to this if they find otherwise, but IMO much more lightly than I would have suggested at such an early stage of review. I also felt the final three sentences of the paragraph, when put together like they were, were not very successful either, which was kind of telling of how much they just IMO wanted to deny this and leave it at that. It didn't feel as reassuring as a panel of NASA people explaining a failure analysis roadmap (and where they are on that), that's for sure.

    I get it that some disagree and that's perfectly fine. I just wanted to voice my thoughts on the PR and make sure they were understood, not misunderstood. :)
     
  20. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Well-Known Member

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    You're criticizing the nuance of the message, yet you removed the qualification, which is something that is important for nuance. That's sloppy thinking, at best.

    I see neither certainty nor contradiction in SpaceX's message. The statement said that:
    - SpaceX had analyzed the data they have and had been unable find something wrong
    - Any reports that SpaceX had found something wrong are false
    - The nature of the mission means that they couldn't say anything else
    - Because SpaceX had not found anything wrong the upcoming Falcon Heavy and SES launches would continue as planned.
     
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