A payload fairing is the piece of a rocket that protects the spacecraft and the third stage during early portions of the boost phase. They are designed to protect craft from the aerodynamic forces they encounter in the atmosphere.
“This flight is a key milestone for us,” said Dan Merenda, managing director RUAG Space USA. “For the very first time, a fully U.S.-made fairing from us will fly into space.” Based in Switzerland, RUAG has earlier provided fairings for ULA’s Atlas V rockets some 30 times, but not ones built in the U.S.
RUAG has a plant adjacent to the United Launch Alliance site in Decatur.
The ULA launch of the Space Test Program-3 mission for the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command was set for Sunday but delayed until Tuesday because of ground issues. The rocket will be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
In addition to being RUAG’s first U.S.-built fairing, it is also the first made in the company’s Out-of-Autoclave production process.
“The Out-of-Autoclave manufacturing method is an alternative process to cure carbon fiber composites using only an oven,” said Merenda. The new method avoids high-pressure and can handle pieces too big for the autoclave.
As ULA moves to the new Vulcan Centaur rockets, RUAG is slated to provide not only fairings but also payload attachment fittings, interstage adapters and other composite parts for the Vulcan rocket using out-of-autoclave technology. All products will be manufactured in Decatur.