They say, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. But in the case of Aerojet-General, it actually did. Founded by a professor and his colleagues at Caltech, the company develops and makes propulsion systems for defense and space applications, including tactical missiles and space launch vehicles. It is the largest provider of propulsion systems in the US, serving the likes of the US Army, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and NASA. Aerojet is a key subsidiary of GenCorp. In 2013 GenCorp acquired Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and merged it with Aerojet to create Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Change of Company Type
Aerojet's operations changed significantly in 2013 when parent company GenCorp acquired the space propulsion operations (Rocketdyne) belonging to Pratt & Whitney. GenCorp bought the operations for $550 million and is combining the operations with Aerojet to form Aerojet Rocketdyne. The major deal will double the size and scope of Aerojet.
Sales and Marketing
Aerojet typically sells its propulsion products and components to major prime contractors, such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, that are developing systems for US government entities like the US Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA. It also occasionally serves these agencies directly.
Lockheed Martin, for instance, is using Aerojet rocket motors to propel test runs of its Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS+) under a Lockheed internal research and development program. The MLRS development and production program started in the 1970's and is a five-nation international cooperative program among the US, the UK, Germany, France, and Italy.
Aerojet's contributions to NASA's space shuttle program include: orbital maneuvering system engines that provide thrust for critical in-flight maneuvers; reaction control system engines that help guide the orbiter to more than 30 International Space Station (ISS) dockings; and auxiliary power unit generators that support countdown and ascent milestones. Aerojet boasts more than 30 years of partnership with NASA.
Although broad support continues for the DoD and NASA through fiscal 2011, their budgets are under pressure due to cost impacts of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and a rising US deficit. The NASA budget is authorized to grow modestly but may remain flat or even decline slightly due to calls for reduced federal spending. Because the US government accounts for more than 90% of its revenues, Aerojet's business performance is largely at the mercy of such budgetary decisions.
Around the world, Aerojet is making strategic moves to enter into alliances that will support the future growth of its business. In 2011 it entered into a significant strategic alliance with Teledyne Brown Engineering (TBE), a subsidiary of Teledyne Technologies, to cooperate in the development and production of propulsion systems for launch and in-space applications. The alliance is a departure from the historical single-source method of rocket design and manufacturing. By combining complementary skill sets, the two companies expect to offer customers improved technical performance and lower cost products. The team will work on NASA's new Space Launch System heavy-lift launch vehicle and the US Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles.
To avoid remaining overly dependent on the US space program, Aerojet is using another strategic alliance to target the commercial spacecraft market in other parts of the world. In 2011 it announced a joint agreement with QinetiQ and EADS Astrium Crisa (an EADS company) to market and supply a T6 ion propulsion system known as XENITH. Ion propulsion systems are used for orbit raising and station keeping of satellites, as well as for primary propulsion for deep space missions. XENITH is built around the ultra-efficient T6 ion thruster developed by QinetiQ and thruster power and control electronics provided by EADS Astrium. For the XENITH system, Aerojet will perform some of the manufacturing under license with QinetiQ. A T6 system has already been selected to provide next-generation electric propulsion developed under a European Space Agency program for future telecom satellites.
Similarly, Aerojet is engaged in an alliance with Japan's NEC to jointly supply HAYABUSA fuel-efficient, low-power microwave ion propulsion systems for the US and Japanese aerospace markets. These ion propulsion systems are said to provide propellant efficiencies more than 10 times higher than those of conventional propulsion systems for use on low Earth orbit, geosynchronous, and deep space missions.