A mega-deal soon could rock the commercial space segment, with reports suggesting Aerojet Rocketdyne will acquire United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Reuters reported Sept. 8 that Aerojet Rocketdyne initiated ULA acquisition talks in early August and has bid $2 billion for the venture, which is based in Centennial, Colo., and is used by NASA for a comprehensive set of rocket launch and related services on select missions. ULA also provides launch services for non-government satellites.
The Wall Street Journal, in a report circulated the same day, said the talks are in advanced stages and could produce an agreement by the end of the next week. There was no immediate comment from company officials.
Based in Sacramento, Calif., Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactures rocket and missile engines. It was formed in 2013 by the merger of Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.
ULA, which was formed in 2006 after two years of talks by its current owners, uses Delta II, Delta IV and Atlas V rockets, with plans to use the Vulcan rocket under development by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin in coming years. Those plans have thwarted a proposal to have ULA upgrade the Atlas V with Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new AR-1 engine, and speculation swirled that the ULA takeover talks are motivated in part by a desire to reverse the decision.
As for the current ULA owners, it’s worth noting that Boeing and Lockheed face heightened competition in the rocket business from Elon Musk’s SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif. Rocket launches are risky businesses in the best of times, and the entry of a major new player — and one touting dramatically lowered cost structures — makes lower profit and revenue a distinct possibility for ULA.