The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2021
An employee walks up to two of the four rocket engines of NASA's Space Launch System. (Gerald Herbert/AP)
Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, announced Sunday that it would acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne, a rocket engine and missile manufacturer, for $4.4 billion. “Acquiring Aerojet Rocketdyne will preserve and strengthen an essential component of the domestic defense base and reduce costs for our customers and the American taxpayer,” James Taiclet, the president and CEO of Bethesda-based Lockheed, said in a statement. “This transaction enhances Lockheed Martin’s support of critical U.S. and allied security missions and retains national leadership in space and hypersonic technology. We look forward to welcoming their talented team and expanding Lockheed Martin’s position as the leading provider of 21st-century warfare solutions.” NASA’s new rocket would be the most powerful ever. But it’s the software that has some officials worried. Aerojet Rocketdyne has revenue of about $2 billion and some 5,000 employees across the country. The company manufactures the RS-25 engines to be used on NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, which is designed to fly astronauts to the moon, as well as propulsion systems that are already used in several of Lockheed’s defense systems. Lockheed makes the Orion spacecraft that would fly atop the SLS rocket. The acquisition will give Lockheed a stake in the rocket, which is made primarily by Boeing. “Joining Lockheed Martin is a testament to the world-class organization and team we’ve built and represents a natural next phase of our evolution,” Eileen P. Drake, CEO, and president of Aerojet Rocketdyne said in a statement. “As part of Lockheed Martin, we will bring our advanced technologies together with their substantial expertise and resources to accelerate our shared purpose: enabling the defense of our nation and space exploration.” The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2021 and is subject to the approval of Aerojet Rocketdyne shareholders.