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Boeing’s Starliner Launch Delayed Over Oxygen Valve Issue

Analyst Team trader
Updated 8 May 2024

Boeing's (NYSE: BA) spaceflight ambitions suffered a setback this week when the company postponed the launch of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft due to a last-minute technical snag. Just hours before the scheduled liftoff, engineers detected an anomaly with the capsule's oxygen relief valve, prompting the aerospace giant to delay the mission, which was intended to be a significant milestone for Boeing.

NASA announced that it has rescheduled the launch of the Starliner to no later than Friday, May 10. The additional time is intended to allow for a thorough analysis of the oxygen valve defect that led to the postponement. This is not the first time Boeing has faced hurdles with the Starliner. Previously, Boeing's quest to reach the International Space Station was thwarted by a timing error that unintentionally triggered the capsule's engines too soon.

This delayed mission was particularly crucial as it was expected to be Boeing's inaugural crewed flight. With astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita Williams aboard, the Starliner was set to dock with the International Space Station. However, with just two hours to go before launch, the mission had to be abandoned, leaving the crew to extend their stay on the ISS.

The delay is another blow to Boeing, a company still grappling with the reputational damage from quality control and safety issues across its projects, most notably with its 737 MAX models. The Starliner program has already seen Boeing incur cost overruns exceeding $1.5 billion, an expensive stumble for the storied manufacturer.


Meanwhile, SpaceX has surged ahead in the private spaceflight industry. Its Crew Dragon capsule has completed nine crewed flights for NASA, starkly illustrating the contrasting fortunes between the two space contenders. The space economy at large is evolving, prioritising speed, affordability, and breakthrough technology – qualities exemplified by players like SpaceX.

As NASA increasingly leans on private companies for space exploration, Intuitive Machines (NASDAQ: LUNR), representing a new generation of aerospace independents, has secured over $100 million in NASA funding for lunar services. Intuitive Machines has made history by becoming the first commercial company to successfully reach the lunar surface, signaling a changing guard in the space sector where nimble, innovative companies are playing significant roles.

Boeing's setbacks with the Starliner highlight the intense competition and high stakes of the modern space economy. While traditional aerospace players like Boeing have significant expertise and resources, they face new challenges from agile startups and a need to uncompromisingly prioritise safety and quality. As public agencies such as NASA shift their focus to partnering with the private sector, companies like Intuitive Machines may well represent the future frontier of space exploration.

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The AskTraders Analyst Team features experts in technical and fundamental analysis, as well as traders specializing in stocks, forex, and cryptocurrency.