In this paper, we report on the first steps in an empirical investigation into the nature of the laser survivability curve. The laser survivability curve is the onset threshold as a function of shot number. This empirical investigation is motivated by the desire to design a universal procedure for the measurement of the so-called S on 1 damage threshold. Analysis is carried on the test results for first results from a large set of planned measurements from identical samples produced for this investigation. The sample set and test conditions are discussed. A pair of measurements, one taken at atmospheric pressure and one at vacuum are introduced and analyzed as an example. Interim observations on the nature of the laser survivability curve, and its determination to be used in the remainder of this investigation based on this initial look, are presented at the conclusion of this paper.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.