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Industrial Tech Today: SpaceX LAUNCH

Welcome to Industrial Tech Today, a thought-provoking and informative series brought to you by Artemis, a Boston based private equity firm focused exclusively on buying and building differentiated manufacturers of Industrial Tech. 

In this series, we explore the world of industrial technology and its impact and intersection with current events. We showcase the latest innovations, trends, and challenges that are shaping the future of the industry and our world. From aerospace and defense to advanced materials and automation, we discuss a diverse range of topics that reflect the exciting advancements and opportunities emerging in this high tech and influential industry. 

Join us as we seek to provide insights, analysis, and explanation, while highlighting the cutting-edge Artemis portfolio companies and technologies that are driving progress and building a brighter future.



Taking a 2-week break from discussing labor dynamics in manufacturing, we are using that time to introduce Artemis’ latest series. 

With this series bring devoted to our ongoing coverage of recent events in Industrial Tech, today’s post will discuss one key component within the mission critical Space Tech industry that is often overlooked. High-performance valves are critical components in the design and operation of spacecraft, playing a vital role in ensuring the safety and success of missions. From launch to deep space exploration, these highly engineered valves must be capable of withstanding the harsh conditions they will encounter. We will examine the SpaceX Starship valve failure and discuss the potential consequences of valve malfunctions. Additionally, we will explore how advances in material sciences can lead to the development of valve components that are better equipped to handle these extreme environments. Lastly, we will highlight the advantages of advanced ceramics over traditional materials, such as metals and alloys, in creating superior valve technologies.



A. Propellant valves
Propellant valves control the flow of fuel and oxidizer to the spacecraft's engines. These high-performance valves must provide precise control and rapid response to ensure the proper mixing of propellants, which is crucial for achieving the desired thrust and efficiency. They must also be able to withstand the extreme temperatures and pressures experienced during launch, as well as the corrosive nature of some propellants.
B. Pressurization valves
Pressurization valves are responsible for maintaining the optimal pressure within the spacecraft's tanks and compartments. They regulate the flow of pressurized gas, such as helium or nitrogen, which is used to replace the volume of fuel and oxidizer as they are consumed. This ensures that the tanks maintain a consistent internal pressure, preventing structural damage or instability. Pressurization valves must also be capable of handling rapid pressure changes and extreme temperature fluctuations during the various phases of a mission.

C. Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) valves
The ECLSS is responsible for providing a habitable environment for astronauts aboard the spacecraft. Valves within this system control the flow of air, water, and waste, as well as maintaining the appropriate temperature, pressure, and humidity levels. ECLSS valves must be highly reliable and efficient, as their proper operation is crucial for the health and safety of the crew. They must also be able to endure long-duration missions and resist contamination or biofouling.

D. Reaction Control System (RCS) valves
The RCS is used to maneuver and control the attitude  of a spacecraft, utilizing small thrusters placed around the vehicle. Valves within the RCS regulate the flow of propellant to these thrusters, allowing for precise adjustments in the spacecraft's orientation and position. RCS valves must exhibit a high level of precision and responsiveness, as well as being capable of operating in the vacuum of space and handling the extreme temperature variations that can occur during a mission.



The Wall Street Journal highlighted a SpaceX Starship test launch, which experienced a valve failure during one of its pre-launch tests. The failure resulted in delays and increased scrutiny over the reliability of the spacecraft's systems.

The valve failure in question involved a propellant valve that malfunctioned during fueling procedures, leading to the aborting of the test. The malfunction raised concerns about the robustness and reliability of the valve systems in the SpaceX Starship, as any failure during an actual launch or mission could lead to catastrophic consequences.

The incident underscores the importance of thorough testing and validation of all critical components in a spacecraft, including valves. It also highlights the need for continued research and development in the field of high-performance valve technologies to ensure that they can withstand the extreme environments encountered in space missions. 


Valve failures in a spacecraft can have severe consequences, ranging from reduced mission efficiency to complete mission failure and loss of the vehicle. Malfunctions in critical valves, such as propellant or pressurization valves, can lead to engine shutdowns, explosions, or the inability to maintain structural integrity. In the case of ECLSS or RCS valves, failure could compromise crew safety, life support, or maneuverability, jeopardizing the success of the mission.

To minimize the risk of valve failures, spacecraft designers often implement redundancy and safety measures, such as using multiple valves for critical functions or incorporating fail-safe mechanisms. These measures help to ensure that even if a valve fails, the spacecraft can continue to operate safely and complete its mission. However, the best approach is to invest in the development and testing of high-performance valve technologies that offer increased reliability and durability in the extreme conditions encountered during space missions.


Designing valves for spacecraft involves addressing numerous challenges, including exposure to extreme temperatures, pressure fluctuations, corrosive propellants, and the vacuum of space. To ensure optimal performance and reliability, valve components must be made from materials that can withstand these harsh conditions over extended periods.

Material sciences play a crucial role in the development of high-performance valve components. Researchers are continually exploring new materials and manufacturing processes to create valves that can better endure the extreme environments of space missions. Recent advancements in material sciences have led to the discovery and development of materials with enhanced properties, such as increased strength, corrosion resistance, and temperature tolerance.

Selecting the appropriate materials and manufacturing processes for valve components is critical in ensuring their long-term performance and durability. Engineers must consider factors such as material compatibility with propellants, thermal expansion, and material fatigue when designing valves for spacecraft . Advanced manufacturing techniques, such as additive manufacturing or precision machining, can also contribute to the production of high-quality valve components with complex geometries and tight tolerances.


Traditionally, the valves discussed above are made from metals and alloys. However, in recent years, Advanced ceramics have become more common due to several advantages when it comes to valve technologies in spacecraft. Some of these advantages include:

Superior thermal stability: Ceramics can withstand extreme temperatures without significant thermal expansion or degradation, making them ideal for applications exposed to high heat or rapid temperature changes, such as in rocket engines.

Excellent corrosion resistance: Ceramics are highly resistant to corrosion and wear, even when exposed to aggressive chemicals or environments. This property is particularly valuable for valves that come into contact with corrosive propellants or other harsh substances.

Low density: Ceramic materials have a lower density compared to many metals and alloys, which can contribute to reducing the overall weight of a spacecraft and improve fuel efficiency.

High stiffness and strength: Advanced ceramics possess high mechanical strength and stiffness, making them suitable for use in applications that require high load-bearing capabilities.


Silicon nitride (Si3N4): Silicon nitride is known for its high strength, wear resistance, and thermal stability, making it suitable for use in high-temperature and high-stress applications, such as engine components and bearings.

Zirconia (ZrO2): Zirconia has excellent mechanical properties, high fracture toughness, and low thermal conductivity, making it an ideal material for use in applications requiring thermal insulation or resistance to wear.

Aluminum oxide (Al2O3): Aluminum oxide is a widely used ceramic material due to its high hardness, wear resistance, and good thermal and electrical insulation properties. It is commonly employed in valve components that require high strength and resistance to wear and corrosion.

As we've explored in this blog post, advanced ceramics hold immense potential for innovating within valve technologies and other critical components in spacecraft systems. If you're intrigued by the possibilities and eager to learn more about the cutting-edge applications of ceramics in the aerospace and defense sectors, we encourage you to explore our portfolio company, STC (Superior Technical Ceramics).

STC  is a company in the development and manufacturing of advanced ceramic materials, providing innovative solutions to industries like aerospace and defense. With a focus on engineering excellence and high-quality production, STC is at the forefront of creating next-generation ceramic components that meet the stringent requirements of modern spacecraft systems and other critical applications.

To look deeper into STC's work and learn more about the exciting advancements they're making, visit their portfolio company page on Artemis’ website to gain further insight into the applications of ceramics in these sectors and the unique benefits they offer.

Don't miss this opportunity to stay informed about the latest developments in industrial technologies and how they're shaping the future of more than just space exploration and defense technologies. Like, comment, and follow to stay up to date and be a part of the growing conversation.