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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.