WASHINGTON — NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) program appears to be in good shape both politically and financially, ATK Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung told investors and analysts on a Nov. 7 earnings call.

“The SLS program is very well supported with bipartisan support and a reasonable budget level,” he said. The Arlington, Va., company, whose Magna, Utah-based Aerospace Group saw year-to-year operating profits rise 9.4 percent to $40.6 million on nearly flat sales of $319 million for the three-month period ended Sept. 29, is the prime contractor for the heavy-lift launcher’s twin solid-rocket boosters. 

NASA spent $1.4 billion of its $1.8 billion SLS budget for 2013 on vehicle development, down from the $1.5 billion it spent in 2012. A stopgap spending measure funding NASA and the rest of the federal government through Jan. 15 freezes programs at 2013 levels.

Meanwhile, ATK clinched a contract during the quarter to deliver large-diameter solid-rocket motors to Orbital Sciences Corp. for the air-launched vehicle the company is developing for Stratolaunch Systems Group of Huntsville, Ala. The value of this contract, which covers a small number of demonstration flights Stratolaunch hopes to conduct in 2018 and 2019, was not disclosed. 

ATK also delivered the two-piece backplane for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville in September for thermal vacuum testing. 

ATK’s overall quarterly operating profit rose about 34 percent to about $148 million on sales of $1.14 billion as a booming Sports Group, which includes the company’s small arms and ammunition business, offset declines at the Defense Group, whose sales were down 9 percent to $472 million despite improved missile-related sales.

Dan Leone is the NASA reporter for SpaceNews, where he also covers other civilian-run U.S. government space programs and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He joined SpaceNews in 2011.Dan earned a bachelor's degree in public communications...