SpaceX Wants to Buy a Whole Lot of Carbon Fiber

JSAT-14 Fairing Credit: SpaceX

JCSAT-14 Fairing and Payload
Credit: SpaceX

An interesting piece of information regarding SpaceX’s future plans and the purchase of large quantities of carbon fiber out of the Nikkei Asian Review, courtesy of Jeff Foust’s morning newsletter.

“Japanese materials maker Toray Industries has agreed to supply carbon fiber to U.S. startup SpaceX for use in the bodies of rockets and space vehicles.

The multiyear deal with Tesla founder Elon Musk’s 14-year-old venture is estimated to be worth 200 billion yen to 300 billion yen ($1.99 billion to $2.98 billion) in total. The two sides are aiming to finalize the agreement this fall after hammering out prices, time frames and other terms.”

Currently the largest single carbon fiber component on any SpaceX rocket is the 5.2 meter payload fairing which encapsulates satellites. Notably, and in contrast to every other launch provider, SpaceX’s focus on reusability even extends to the these as well, where the company has made no secret of the fact that it is determined to find a way to recover and re-use the two-piece fairings which are jettisoned approximately 3.5 minutes into flight.
With that in mind, and based on recent comments which suggest SpaceX is closing in on a recovery method it believes will work, a $2-3 billion order for carbon fiber suggests that depending on the length of the contract, it may be going to more than Dragon shells, landing legs, interstage adapters and various other items.
The obvious choice, as the article alludes, is for rocket bodies, meaning propellant tanks, where a switch from aluminum to carbon fiber could result in substantial mass savings. Given the fact that the SpaceX recently shipped its first Raptor engine to McGregor for testing, perhaps the next generation booster is coming together a bit quicker than many supposed.


Posted in: SpaceX

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