RL10 hotfire test
A 3D-printed thrust chamber for the RL10 engine undergoes a hotfire test. Aerojet Rocketdyne plans to use technologies like additive manufacturing in the development of the RL10C-X engine, which is now supported by a revised agreement with the Air Force. Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin announced Dec. 20 it inked a deal to acquire rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne for $4.4 billion. 

James Taiclet, Lockheed Martin’s president and CEO, said the acquisition gives the company a larger footprint in space and hypersonic technology. 

He said Aerojet Rocketdyne’s propulsion systems already are key components of Lockheed Martin’s supply chain across several business areas. 

“The proposed acquisition adds substantial expertise in propulsion to Lockheed Martin’s portfolio,” the company said in a news release.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s 2019 revenues were approximately $2 billion. The company, headquartered in El Segundo, California, has nearly 5,000 employees. Aerojet Rocketdyne was formed in 2013 when GenCorp’s Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne were merged.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s portfolio of large rocket engines includes the RL10 that powers the upper stage of United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 and Atlas 5 launch vehicles. Lockheed Martin and Boeing each owns 50% of ULA. Aerojet Rocketdyne also produces the RS-25 engines for NASA’s Space Launch System and it’s working to qualify a new version called RL10C-X that will include major components built using 3-D printing technology.

The company won a Pentagon contract in 2016 to develop a new rocket engine called AR1 that was positioned to compete to be the main engine of ULA’s new Vulcan launch vehicle but ULA in September 2018 ended up selecting Blue Origin’s BE-4. Aerojet Rocketdyne in September 2015 suffered a major blow to its solid rocket motors business when ULA selected Orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman) to supply solid rocket boosters for Atlas 5 and Vulcan.

Lockheed Martin’s acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne is expected to close in the second half of 2021. It is subject to approvals by regulators and Aerojet Rocketdyne’s stockholders. 

Lockheed Martin said a transition team will be formed to help ease the integration and ensure continuity for customers and employees.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...