WASHINGTON — Rocket propulsion provider Aerojet Rocketdyne announced Sept. 9 that it has hired former Boeing executive Jim Simpson as its new senior vice president of strategy and business development, effective Sept. 21.

Simpson worked at Boeing for 35 years, most recently in a similar position in Boeing’s Network and Space Systems unit.

In his new role at Sacramento, California-based Aerojet Rocketdyne, Simpson will be responsible for capturing new business and “strategic alignment initiatives,” the company said in a press release.

Simpson’s arrival comes at a pivotal time for Aerojet Rocketdyne, which, following a series of acquisitions, most recently of Pratt & Whitney’s space propulsion business, is the traditional dominant U.S. supplier of large liquid-fueled rocket engines. Prior to that acquisition Pratt & Whitney’s portfolio had shrunk considerably with the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s current business includes the main engine for United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 rocket and upper-stage engines for both that vehicle and ULA’s other rocket, the Atlas 5. The company is developing a new main engine that it hopes will replace the Atlas 5’s Russian-built main engine, now the subject of a congressional ban, but ULA is pursuing a rocket that would use an entirely different engine made by Blue Origin of Kent, Washington.

Earlier this year Aerojet Rocketdyne inquired about the possibility of obtaining the production rights to the Atlas 5 but was rebuffed by Denver-based ULA. Now, according to industry sources, Aerojet Rocketdyne is trying to buy ULA, the U.S. government’s incumbent launch services provider, from parent companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the spacenews.com Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...