SpaceX cut ties on Friday with long-time partner Spaceflight Inc., which integrates customer payloads on rideshare launches. SpaceNews reports that the decision surprised Spaceflight Inc. executives, who received a text message just before SpaceX notified rideshare customers via email it would no longer work with the company.
The article recounts that a Spaceflight Sherpa space tug from the Transporter-3 launch in December due to a leak in the propulsion system provided by Benchmark Space Systems. SpaceX also declined to fly a Sherpa on its upcoming Transporter-4 mission next month due to a different concern.
Another possibility is the SpaceX is bringing rideshare integration inhouse. The company has done similar things in the past in order to become more vertically integrated and less dependent upon partners and suppliers.
There is also an unconfirmed rumor that SpaceX will soon be offering the satellite bus used for its Starlink constellation to other companies at a very low price. The decision to cut ties with Spaceflight could be part of a larger initiative relating to that effort.
A SpaceX official said on Monday that the company is manufacturing close to 8 Starlink satellites per day at its manufacturing facility in Redmond, Wash.