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Lockheed acquires Texas company in aerospace sector

Amrita Jayakumar
(c) 2014, The Washington Post.
WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin is expanding its space systems business.

The Bethesda, Md.-based defense giant announced Thursday that it will acquire Astrotech Space Operations, a satellite division of Astrotech Corp., which is headquartered in Austin. Astrotech Corp. was formerly known as Spacehab and was based in Houston.

The deal, if approved, is valued at $61 million and would close in the third quarter of this year.

"Astrotech Space Operations' expertise in the final stages of launch preparation complements our existing capabilities in satellite design, production and integration," Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin's chief executive, said in a statement.

The acquisition is a relatively small one for Lockheed, which already has a robust space operation, said Roman Schweizer, a defense policy analyst at Guggenheim Partners.

"Lockheed has been very selective in the companies they acquire or lines of business they invest in," he said.

At an industry conference in New York on Thursday morning, Hewson said Lockheed would continue to make small acquisitions "to open into new markets."

The Lockheed-Astrotech deal comes on the heels of another aerospace merger. In April, Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences said it would merge with Alliant Techsystems' defense segment to form a new company named Orbital ATK.

Once the $5 billion deal goes through, it will create a new player in the increasingly competitive aerospace sector, which has long been dominated by a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture called United Launch Alliance.

Astrotech Space Operations provides support for government and commercial satellite launches. The company says it covers 90 percent of the U.S. satellite service market. It operates facilities in Florida and California.

Parent company Astrotech Corp. posted a net loss of $3 million in the third quarter of 2014, which it attributed to a light launch schedule. Revenue was down 66 percent from the previous quarter.

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