Northrop splits ISR division to expand space business
- By Mark Pomerleau
- Mar 31, 2015
In a potential indication that the space domain is becoming more important, defense contracting giant Northrop Grumman will be splitting its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) division in two. Northrop’s ISR and Targeting Systems division will be split between two separate groups—Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance and Targeting Systems, and Space Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems, the company said in an announcement.
Corporate vice president and president of Northrop Gloria Flach said in a prepared statement that this realignment will “better position the company for a broad and exciting portfolio of future growth opportunities in both the airborne and space domains.”
Northrop last July broke ground on a new $20 million Maryland Space Assembly and Test facility that will allow for expanded space payload production as the company's space business grows, the company said.
Space seems to be attracting new interest from companies. Boeing and Lockheed Martin, for instance, have had a virtual monopoly on large-payload launches for the Air Force, though Elon Musk’s SpaceX is nearly in position to compete for that work on future contracts. The plan to replace the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine used in ULA’s Atlas V launches has drawn interest from a partnership between ULA and Blue Origin, a company backed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, as well as ATK Aerospace Group and Aerojet Rocketdyne.
More attention has also been paid to Space Situational Awareness recently as well, exemplified by the U.S. Strategic Command’s expanding partnership with other nations and comments made by STRATCOM Commander Adm. Cecil Haney recently.
Washington Technology ranked Northrop the number two defense contractor in 2014 based on revenue. It’s possible that Northrop is trying to continue to corner the ISR and autonomous markets, doubling down on their development. "For us, we remain disciplined on [manned aircraft, autonomous systems and space systems] because we see the opportunities, and we see the experiences we have, the capabilities we have, the technology we have," Tom Vice, Northrop’s president of aerospace, told Defense News According to reporting by Defense News earlier this year. "We don't need to venture out of that and look for adjacencies. These markets are where we're going to focus."
Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.