NASA Contractor Urges Delaying Starliner Rocket Launch  


A NASA contractor is warning the agency to perform more safety inspections before greenlighting the inaugural launch of its Starliner rocket slated for as early as next week.

Reports say ValveTech, a subcontractor for NASA supplying the company with parts for the Starliner aircraft, has issued a press release urging NASA to postpone the latest launch “due to the risk of a disaster occurring on the launchpad.” An initial launch slated for May 6 was scrubbed two hours before launch following a leaking regulator valve in an oxygen tank, but NASA says it is considering a second launch imminently.

“According to media reports, a buzzing sound indicating the leaking valve was noticed by someone walking by the Starliner minutes before launch,” ValveTech President Erin Faville said. “This sound could indicate that the valve has passed its lifecycle.” Faville emphasized that NASA needs to ensure the Starliner is safe before something “catastrophic happens” to astronauts or bystanders.

In response, the CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA), the company launching Boeing’s spacecraft into orbit, disputed ValveTech’s claims on X, writing, “Not sure what to say about this one. Close to none of it is correct. Not urgent. Not leaking. Etc. Remarkable that the particular person quoted doesn’t seem to know how this type of valve works…”

Starliner’s next launch is set for May 17 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. “CLOSE to none of this is correct”? So, the CEO is saying that some of the guy’s comments MIGHT be correct? I’m sure that makes the flight crew feel much better. Considering NASA’s track record on being PRETTY SURE everything is okay; I might listen to the guy and make damn sure it is as right as possible.

    • Since ULA already decided to replace the valve before this CEO made this statement, it’s much ado about nothing.

    • Yes, some of the guy’s comments were possibly correct. The valve was certified for c. 200K cycles, they weren’t sure if all the fluttering had overcycled the valve. But I doubt “some guy walking by” was the source, pads are pretty noisy places.

  2. Well … MY disdain for NASA’s mismanagement of the X-57 “Maxwell” and X-59 “QUESST” Low Boom Flight Demonstrator airplane projects led me to discover a NASA Office of the Inspector General Report dated May 17, 2023 … just about a year ago. The following is lifted verbatim directly from same:

    “History of Unrealistic Cost and Schedule Estimates

    The OIG has consistently reported on NASA’s challenge in meeting cost and schedule commitments in its space flight projects and, in 2012, attributed these challenges in part to the Agency’s penchant towards over-optimism. We found the same sense of optimism and its resulting negative effects on cost and schedule estimates in NASA’s aircraft research and development efforts.”

    “Over optimism!” Looks to ME as if NASA has learned nothing from its past tragedies or programs and is now putting itself and more crewpersons at risk AGAIN? IF the guy who tried to warn them about the O-rings had been listened to, seven astronauts might be alive today. If I were one of those two people slated to fly this thing, I would now have to seriously consider turning in my wings and walking away. “Close” only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades … not space flight. What’re we to do … establish still another Rogers Commission or Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) if something bad happens again?

    • Since ULA already decided to replace the valve before this CEO made this statement, it’s much ado about nothing.

    • “Close” only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades”……Larry, you forgot Thermonuclear weapons.

      • As a former nuclear weaponeer, close is often NOT good enough with nukes. And the fact that they replaced the valve would not make me happy to fly that rocket without knowing why the original valve fluttered and that the new one won’t. Don’t see any of that in the NASA statement.

    • OOOooops … if it’s Boeing … it isn’t going … until May 21:

    • My understanding is the problem valve(s) in question are part of the Centaur upper stage, not Starliner itself.
      Centaur is not a Boeing product, it is built by ULA, and prior to mergers, Lockheed and Convair.

      It does seem on this basis that the press release is rather factually flawed.

      • NASA, Boeing, ULA, Valvetech, Lockheed, Convair … WHO is in charge, here? WHO is responsible? A valve ‘passed its lifecycle?’ HUH !!!
        To ME, it seems like NASA is now in a race to the bottom with Boeing … SADLY !! With lives at stake, it’s time to get their collective poopus maximus’ together!

        • ULA has 100% launch success founded on a heritage of more than 600 Atlas program launches. They swapped out the valve in question prior to any of this conversation.

        • It’s 50% owned by each. But day to day ops and engineering decisions are up to ULA. Its CEO Tory Bruno is a very intelligent engineer. ULA has an excellent track record for safety and reliability.

    • At least he seems to have mastered clearing the pad, so it’ll be a “success” no matter what happens after that.

  3. Ask those five folks……”Well Hell…it should work probably. Anyone want us to delay it and do some more safety checks? Whatta you think? Let’s see some hands”. I’d be out of there now! Wait for another day.

    • The first crewed mission has already had at least seven astronauts assigned to it, with various ones leaving for medical reasons, family reasons, etc.

  4. Why am I seeing few subcontracts in ValveTechs future?

    Based on someone walking by a noisy valve and diagnosing the problem is like Dr. Frist diagnosing a patient by seeing her on television.

  5. I have a few words for United Launch Alliance:
    – Morton Thiokol,
    – Challenger, and
    – Columbia.

    What is the “cost” of checking v the cost of having missed something…

    • Again, as has been stated by others, there is NO NEED to check anything. The decision was made to change the valve PRIOR to the assertion. Some people in this group just love to hear the sound of their own voice!

      • I did not see where the valve being replaced was reported in this story. Your argumentum ad hominem on me adds no value.

  6. How was “someone walking by the Starliner minutes before launch”? Don’t they clear a wide area well before “minutes before launch”? I bet even Elmo does that.

  7. Someone from Morton Thiokol expressed concerns about Shuttle hardware before launch a few years back… Remember how that worked out…

    • This issue has not been ignored as in that case. There defective part is being replaced presently.

  8. So if it was not the buzzing which alerted them to the faulty valve, what was it? Oxygen rushing out of a tank? It is difficult to replace valves (mechanical devices) with electronics, and equally difficult to use electronics to try and diagnose whether a valve is working or not.
    I have seen electronic systems say a valve is fully shut when it was quarter open — feeling the shaking pipe downstream from the valve was a much better guide than the multi-thousand euro electronic security system.

  9. I think the point Valvetech is trying to make is that if that valve is over its cycle limit, there are probably OTHER defective valves in the rocket too!
    Saying your own products are dangerous is not a money-making move for any company, I doubt they did this just to be annoying.

  10. This is a tough one. There are many ValveTech valves on the rocket. Apparently Aerojet was in a legal dispute with ValveTech for using ValveTech’s test data and designs to develope their own valve. All while still using some other ValveTech valves. So was the failed valve the one that Aerojet designed(and copied) on it’s own? Or was it actually a ValveTech regulator? The warning was issued by ValveTech who was the injured party in the legal case. So this sounds like they are innoculating themselves ahead of any potential launch disaster. Or perhaps using the media to punish Aerojet for breaching their NDA and cancelling their valve contract. I would also add that a leaking regulator doesn’t have to be dripping to the outside, but rather leaking internally past the pressure differential. This type of leak could cause “fluttering” as the regulator still tries to control the pressure as LO seeps past. So maybe they DO know more about how these regulators work than ULA’s press response accuses.

  11. No need to get into details, I’m 100% on the side of all whistleblowers. Nothing new should ever be physically tested, much less put into actual use, until it can be absolutely proven to a mathematical certainty nothing will go wrong.

  12. Saying that the issue was moot because the offending valve had been replaced overlooks the fact that previous problems with this Starliner launch vehicle involved valve malfunctions. This latest incident points to the possibility of a larger, systemic, engineering design problem at Boeing.

  13. There are a lot of cooks in this NASA kitchen but someone has to be responsible. Someone is overseeing the whole project and THAT someone is responsible. There are so many sub-contractors in so many industries now. When something goes wrong they contracted company and it’s sub-contractors all start pointing fingers at each other.
    Boeing: Oh, we don’t make the booster.
    ULA: It’s no big deal.
    ValveTech: Don’t launch!

    Someone needs to take the blame. Ford, Dodge, and GMC have lots of subcontractors but when there is a problem, the automaker steps up and rectifies it.

    And the astronauts could also be a driver for safety if they just recall the line from The Right Stuff: “Yeah, but who are you going to get to fly it?”

    • Your position is exactly the basis of my early comment above. When EVERYTHING is said and done, the people flying on this thing have a MAJOR say in things, I hope? And NASA IS the manging entity … so it behooves them to act like the “PIC” in this evolution and take all reasonable precautions. If what Rick F says is true, I’d be worried if I was flying on it.

      • This rocket (Atlas V) is not new, it has been flying since 2002 without a single launch failure.
        Indeed, it is being phased out and replaced as it is at the end of it’s lifecycle, being no longer competitive due to SpaceX’s Falcon-9.