Bacteriophage SPP1 is a nanomachine evolved to infect the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. The phage particle is composed of an icosahedric capsid, which contains the viral DNA, and a long non-contractile tail. Capsids and tails are produced in infected cells by two distinct morphogenetic pathways. Characterization of the supressor-sensitive mutant SPP1sus82 showed that it produces DNA-filled capsids and tails but is unable to assemble complete virions. Its purified tails have a normal length but lack a narrow ring that tapers the tail end found at the tail-to-head interface. The mutant is defective in production of gp17. The gp17 ring is exposed in free tails competent for viral assembly but becomes shielded in the final virion structure. Recombinant gp17 is active in an in vitro assay to stick together capsids and tails present in extracts of SPP1sus82 infected cells, leading to formation of infectious particles. Gp17 thus plays a fundamental role in the tail-to-head joining reaction, the ultimate step of virus particle assembly. This is the conserved function of gp17 and its structurally related proteins like lambda gpU. This family of proteins can also provide fidelity to termination of the tail tube elongation reaction in a subset of phages including coliphage lambda.