Reduced NASA Work Crimps ATK Aerospace’s Revenue

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WASHINGTON — Reduced work on NASA’s space shuttle program was only partially offset by “higher sales of commercial aircraft structures and flares/decoys” as ATK Aerospace posted a 4.3 percent revenue decline, to $353.6 million, for its 2011 first quarter compared to the same period last year.

But operating profit at the division was up 18.8 percent, to $42.5 million, thanks in part to a real estate transaction that netted $5.4 million, parent company Alliant Techsystems (ATK) reported Aug. 4.

ATK is projecting yearly NASA sales to ring in at $300 million to $350 million, down substantially from the $500 million the company brought in during the shuttle era, John Shroyer, the company’s outgoing chief financial officer, said. Shroyer officially left the company after the Aug. 4 earnings report, to be replaced on an interim basis by Thomas Sexton, ATK’s vice president and corporate controller.

ATK’s NASA work shrank after the demise of the Moon-bound Constellation program and the space shuttle’s retirement. However, during an Aug. 4 conference call, ATK President and Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung pointed to two hopeful signs for ATK’s human spaceflight business: the inclusion of the company’s solid-rocket boosters in the next NASA-owned heavy lifter program and a possible restart of work on the launch-abort system of a space capsule designed to deliver crews to deep space destinations.

NASA has “sustained the development of a solid-rocket booster” for the congressionally mandated Space Launch System, DeYoung said. ATK will next test the booster, a five-segmented version of the giant solid-rocket motors used on shuttle, Sept. 8 at Promontory, Utah, he said.

ATK’s work on the launch abort system for the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, which is being built by Lockheed Martin, was halted by Lockheed when the capsule was put in development limbo after the cancellation of Constellation. But the capsule program has been resurrected, and DeYoung said he believes Lockheed will restart work on the launch abort system, though he would not predict when that might translate into revenue for ATK.