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SpaceX Will Buy Taller Fairings to Compete for U.S. Air Force Launch Contracts

Accepted submission by takyon at 2019-08-14 18:02:22

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

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.

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.

RUAG [].

Previously: SpaceX's attempts to buy bigger Falcon fairings complicated by contractor's ULA relationship []

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