ATK Civil Space Business Stabilizes on SLS Work

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The $1.6 billion that Congress allocated to NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) in 2014 “was in line with our expectations for the program,” ATK Chief Executive Mark DeYoung told investors in a Jan. 30 conference call on the company’s third-quarter financial results.

ATK builds the giant solid rocket boosters that will help propel early versions of the SLS to space. The motors are based on those ATK built for NASA’s now-retired space shuttle fleet.  

Since the shuttle program ended in 2011, ATK’s NASA business has stabilized, if not returned to shuttle-era levels, DeYoung said. ATK has work for the first two SLS flights, scheduled for 2017 and 2021, and the prospect of similar work on subsequent flights, for which NASA wants to buy upgraded boosters. Competition for the advanced boosters is to start in 2015. 

Operating profit for ATK’s Aerospace division dropped to $33 million in the quarter, from $37 million in the prior-year third quarter. The difference was partially due to “the absence of an award fee in the group’s propulsion business that was recorded in the prior-year period,” the company said in a press release. Segment sales rose to $318 million from $305 million. 

Overall, the company — which also has defense and small-firearms segments — reported an operating profit of roughly $146 million for the three months ending Dec. 29, up from about $106 million in the year-ago period. The difference was due to better performance in the small-firearms segment. Sales rose to roughly $1.21 billion from about $1.06 billion.