WASHINGTON — ITT Corp. plans to split itself into three separate, publicly traded businesses including a defense company that will continue to be a major builder of satellite payloads, the White Plains, N.Y.-based company announced Jan. 12.

ITT’s current Defense and Information Solutions business includes the Geospatial Solutions unit that builds satellite instruments for navigation, imaging and environmental monitoring. The unit, created by last year’s merger of the company’s Space Systems and Night Vision equipment divisions, also produces imagery processing software.

Following the spinoff, the Defense and Information Solutions unit will be renamed but will continue to be focused primarily on the U.S. Department of Defense, with some commercial customers. The company will have pro forma annual revenue of $5.8 billion, ITT said in a press release.

The other two companies to be created by the breakup will be focused on water technology and “highly engineered industrial products and high tech solutions,” ITT said. These companies will have pro forma annual revenue of $3.6 billion and $2.1 billion, respectively, ITT said.

The breakup plan was unanimously approved by ITT’s board of directors and is expected to be executed by the end of the year, ITT said.

The defense business will be led by David Melcher, currently the president of ITT Defense and Information Solutions, ITT said. The engineering technology company, ITT Corp., will be led by Denise Ramos, currently ITT’s chief financial officer, while the water technology business will be led by Gretchen McClain, currently president of ITT Fluid and Motion Control, the company said.

McClain worked for NASA’s human spaceflight program in the 1990s, serving as deputy associate administrator for the space station.

“I’m confident that Denise, Gretchen and Dave have the best experience to lead these new companies as CEOs [Chief Executive Officers] and will create exciting opportunities for their shareholders, employees and customers. While we move forward with the development of the transformation plan, these three world-class leaders will continue to partner with me and the rest of our leadership team in continuing to deliver strong performance as one portfolio until the transaction is completed,” said Steven Loranger, who currently is chairman, president and chief executive of ITT Corp. “As the future executive chairman of the new water technology company, I look forward to partnering with Gretchen and playing a vibrant and important role in its growth well into the future.”

Each of the new companies will have its own board of directors and will be listed separately on the New York Stock Exchange, ITT said. The breakup is not subject to a shareholder vote, the company said.

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...