My Mixed Review on that Pop. Mechanics Article

Well, I got my hands on a copy of that Popular Mechanics article over lunch yesterday. It was kind of informative, but I wasn’t sure I really liked the slant. They did a good job of showing the cool stuff that Armadillo is working on, but their main angle seemed to be focusing on all the failures, and problems, possibly leaving one who didn’t know John and his team better thinking that these guys were a bunch of dangerouse, cavalier, and unprofessional rocket geeks. While the rocket geeks part is probably true enough, the rest of it I think is a bit unfair. John’s team does take risks, and does focus more on doing rapid “build it, test it, break it, and then build it better, try again” cycles than we do at MSS, but they do have quite a bit to show for it.

The one thing that really bugs me is a funny anecdote that I’m almost positive was incorrect. Basically there was a short line about how when Armadillo disconnected their LOX hook-up, some of the drops spilled on asphalt, and Russ Blink said something like “don’t step on those–they’ll blow up”. The problem is that I’m almost positive that Armadillo is smart enough not to try and do LOX loading over asphalt. They may take what amount to financial risks, but they don’t flirt with danger like that. What makes me even more suspicious about the quote was that someone else who was out there at Armadillo just recently was saying that he was almost positive that they did all their work over concrete–not asphalt.

So anyway, I’m not sure who’s right on that last point, and I’m not sure if I really liked the slant of the article myself, but there was lots of excellent eye-candy, and most of the rest of the article was actually pretty good.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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6 Responses to My Mixed Review on that Pop. Mechanics Article

  1. John Carmack says:

    We were a bit annoyed at that anecdote, because Russ said no such thing, and our loading is indeed over concrete.

    A few other details were wrong in the article as well. They did a fact checking call, but the didn’t check all the facts.

    John Carmack

  2. Jon Goff says:

    I figured as much. You guys are a lot smarter than that. I figured that since I had pointed everyone to the article before actually reading it myself, that I at least needed to mention that I had some issues with it.


  3. Ed says:

    Even without John’s confirmation, I didn’t believe the LOX story. I recall them doing extensive testing of H2O2 with various materials, just to be on the safe side (hint: don’t wear leather shoes when working with hydrogen peroxide). If they tested like that, then I couldn’t see them doing something as ridiculous as spraying LOX on asphalt.

  4. murphydyne says:

    This is Texas. It had to be concrete.


  5. Anonymous says:

    One more thing: The only accompanying photo that showed LOX operations was clearly taken with everything on a concrete surface.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Many of the problems experienced by alt space companies lead back to a single cause. They are notoriously cavalier about reliability. Look at the Falcon 1 failure. A single corroded aluminum nut took the whole bird down? What are they, a bunch of idiots? Who designs a vehicle like that? They obviously have no credible Failure Modes and Effects Analyses (FMEA), or they certainly would have checked and rechecked that nut, if it were even allowed to be a single point failure in the first place. The Apollo program gave birth to reliability as a recognized engineering discipline, and the first successful alt space company will be the one to relearn that lesson. The rest are just pretenders.

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