NASA’s Starliner Launch Facing ‘Disaster,’ Contractor Warns

NASA’s Starliner Launch Facing ‘Disaster,’ Contractor Warns
NASA’s Starliner Launch Facing ‘Disaster,’ Contractor Warns

After the initial launch for Boeing’s Starliner was scrapped last week due to a leaky valve, NASA could be looking to give it another go later this week. But one contractor is surprisingly and publicly asking the agency to reconsider the launch, which it warned could end in catastrophe.

ValveTech, a company that designs and manufactures valves and other components for aerospace and military applications, issued a press release stating that a second attempt could result in a disaster occurring on the launchpad. ValveTech President Erin Faville urged NASA to re-double safety checks and re-examine safety protocols to make sure the Starliner is safe before something catastrophic happens to the astronauts and to the people on the ground.

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The Starliner was scheduled for liftoff last week in what would have been Boeing’s first human space flight. But the launch was scrubbed at the last minute when a fluttering oxygen pressure-relief valve was discovered on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas rocket, the vehicle picked to carry the Starliner into space. The valve, which the Associated Press said may have exceeded its 200,000 lifetime cycles, was buzzing loudly.

NASA and its partners on the launch voiced their disappointment with the latest setback but sounded determined to fix the problem and proceed with the launch at a later date. ValveTech clearly doesn’t feel as confident but the company’s motives for publicly calling out NASA are not as clear.

ValveTech originally worked with Aerojet Rocketdyne on valve designs for the Starliner’s propulsion system, but disputes led the two companies to part ways in 2017. According to Payload, ValveTech later sued Rocketdyne, accusing the company of misappropriating its trade secrets. ValveTech was awarded $850,000 in damages but its attempts to get further restrictions imposed on Rocketdyne died in court.

Now ValveTech is questioning NASA, Boeing and Aerojet on how they could have “qualified this valve for the mission without proper supporting data or previous history or legacy information, which in its experience, goes against aerospace-industry qualification protocols established by NASA.”

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