SpaceX may have signed an agreement with ULA supplier RUAG for bigger Falcon fairings

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SpaceX may have signed an agreement with ULA supplier RUAG for bigger Falcon fairings

Beitrag von BLUΞFIRΞ » Mittwoch 14. August 2019, 13:17

According to comments made to a member of the space industry by a RUAG spokesperson, the prominent aerospace supplier may have finally reached an agreement with SpaceX to manufacture a handful of larger payload fairings for future Falcon 9 and Heavy launches.

In the likely event that SpaceX is one of two contractors awarded a portion of several dozen US military launch contracts next year, the company will need to be able to cater to niche requirements, including accommodating unusually tall military satellites. Those satellites can be so tall that SpaceX’s own payload fairing – generally middle-of-the-pack relative to competitors’ offerings – may be too short, meaning that SpaceX will have to find ways around that minor shortcoming. Talked to RUAG guy at the Small Sat Conference, he confirmed they signed an agreement with SpaceX. RUAG will be producing fairing out of the Decatur facility.— Tim Chen (@timothytchen1) August 13, 2019 (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); SpaceX has three obvious responses at its disposal: design and build an entirely new variant of its universal Falcon fairing, purchase the necessary fairings from an established supplier, or bow out of launch contract competitions that demand it. The latter option is immediately untenable given that it could very well mean bowing out of the entire US military competition, known as Phase 2 of the National Security Space Launch program’s (NSSL; formerly EELV) Launch Services Procurement (LSP).

For dubious reasons, the US Air Force (USAF) has structured the NSSL Phase 2 acquisition in such a way that – despite there being four possible competitors – only two will be awarded contracts at its conclusion. The roughly ~30 launch contracts up for grabs would be split 60:40 between the two victors, leaving two competitors completely emptyhanded. In short, bowing out of the Phase 2 competition could mean forgoing as many as one or two-dozen contracts worth at least $1-2B, depending on the side of the 60:40 split. BildA side-by-side comparison of Blue Origin, SpaceX, and ULA fairings, roughly to scale. (Teslarati) According to a handful of recent comments and developments, SpaceX sided with the option of procuring taller fairings from an industry supplier. As it turns out, European company RUAG has effectively cornered the Western rocket fairing market, with SpaceX being the only Western launch company currently building its own fairings. RUAG builds fairings for both Arianespace’s Ariane 5 and Vega rockets and ULA’s Atlas V. Additionally, RUAG will build and supply fairings for both companies’ next-gen rockets – Arianespace’s Ariane 6 and ULA’s Vulcan – and builds fairings for a number of smallsat launch companies. BildRUAG (right) builds payload fairings for Ariane 5/6, Delta IV, Atlas V, and Vulcan. SpaceX (left) builds its own Falcon fairings in-house. (SpaceX/RUAG) Interestingly, although ULA’s RUAG-built Atlas V fairing is technically narrower than SpaceX’s 5.2m (17 ft) diameter fairing, Atlas V’s largest fairing is significantly taller, supporting payloads up to 16.5m (54 ft) tall compared to 11m (36 ft) for Falcon 9 and Heavy. Given that just a tiny portion of military spacecraft actually need fairings that tall, SpaceX is apparently not interested in simply modifying its own fairing design and production equipment to support a 20-30% stretch.

This likely relates in part to the fact that one of SpaceX’s three NSSL Phase 2 competitors – Northrop Grumman (Omega), Blue Origin (New Glenn), and ULA (Vulcan) – are guaranteed to receive hundreds of millions of dollars of development funding after winning one of the two available slots (60% or 40% of contracts). SpaceX, on the other hand, will receive no such funding while still having to meet the same stringent USAF requirements compete in LSP Phase 2. Of note, Congressman Adam Smith managed to insert a clause into FY2020’s defense authorization bill that could disburse up to $500M to SpaceX in the event that the company is one of Phase 2’s two winners. BildSpaceX builds all large Falcon 9 and Heavy composite structures in house, including landing legs, interstages, and payload fairings. (SpaceX, 2016) Despite this potential influx of infrastructure-focused funds, SpaceX is still apparently pursuing taller Falcon fairings from RUAG, perhaps as a backup in the event that the company is not one of the two Phase 2 winners or is unable to use some of the $500M secured by Rep. Smith to develop its own stretched fairing. My understanding is that RUAG will provide the flight fairing.

This decision has taken sometimes to solidify as you can understand, the Decatur facility belongs to ULA. The RUAG guy hinted that they may move to production facility to near KSC— Tim Chen (@timothytchen1) August 13, 2019 On August 12th, SpaceX – along with Blue Origin, ULA, and NGIS – submitted bids for NSSL Phase 2 launch services, confirming that all four companies will indeed be in the running for contracts. The USAF is not expected to announce the results of this competition until 2020. Teslarati has reached out to SpaceX for comment and will update this article if anything can be added. Check out Teslarati’s newsletters for prompt updates, on-the-ground perspectives, and unique glimpses of SpaceX’s rocket launch and recovery processes. The post SpaceX may have signed an agreement with ULA supplier RUAG for bigger Falcon fairings appeared first on TESLARATI.

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