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Northrop Grumman Tops 2020’s Record Space Systems Growth in 2021 

By Rachel Jewett | January 27, 2022

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft. Photo: Northrop Grumman

After last year’s record growth in Space Systems, Northrop Grumman continued the growth streak in 2021, delivering another year of record sales for the segment. 

The Space Systems segment ended 2021 with $10.6 billion in sales, up 21% from the 2020 total. Northrop Grumman reported the results in its 2021 fourth quarter financial results on Thursday. This follows after 2020, which was also a record year, with $8.7 billion in Space sales — an 18% jump from 2019. 

Space Systems led the company in sales increases for the year. The Mission Systems segment increased sales 1%, and both Aeronautics Systems and Defense Systems declined in sales, by 7% and 23%, respectively. 

Overall, Northrop Grumman’s total sales volume of $35.7 billion in 2021 was down 3% compared to 2020. The company said 2021 sales decreased due to a reduction in sales related to the IT divestiture. Space and Missions Systems sales increases were partially offset by lower sales at Aeronautics Systems and Defense Systems. The company received contract awards worth $32.1 billion in 2021, and backlog stands at $76 billion. 

Northrop Grumman attributed the increase in Space sales in 2021 to higher sales in the  Launch and Strategic Missiles and Space business areas. Launch & Strategic Missiles sales increased due to ramp-up on development programs, including Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and Next Generation Interceptor (NGI). Space sales were driven by higher volume on restricted programs and increases on Artemis and Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR). 

The company also highlighted the Q4 contract win worth $3.2 billion to build boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to support nine SLS flights.

In addition, Space 2021 operating income increased $228 million, or 26% due to higher sales and a higher operating margin rate. 

Northrop Grumman does not expect this growth to slow down. The Space business is expected to grow by about $1 billion in 2022, and guidance projects sales in the mid-$11 billion range in the coming year.

Kathy Warden, chairman, CEO, and president said in Thursday’s investor call that Space Systems’ growth is about 50/50 between the GBSD program and the rest of the portfolio. 

“That broad-based growth is coming from all areas of the business — propulsion, satellites, as well as components,” Warden said. “It’s coming from both restricted and classified work, as well as unclassified work. It’s coming from a variety of customers, Space Force, Air Force, and NASA. We really are seeing space growth be quite balanced in 2022 and even more so as we look forward to 2023. We expect it to continue to be one of, if not the, fastest growing sector for the foreseeable future.” 

Northrop Grumman’s success in its Space segment follows after the company reorganized its corporate segments in January 2020, establishing Space Systems as a space and launch systems provider. This included the former Orbital ATK, which Northrop acquired in 2018 and had integrated as the Innovation Systems segment.

Warden also highlighted the James Webb Space Telescope launch on Dec. 35. Northrop was the prime contractor on the project. 

“One of our proudest moments was the launch of the Webb Space Telescope on December 25,” Warden said. “We’re honored to have partnered with NASA to provide the world with its revolutionary technology. Webb can peer more than 13 and a half billion years into the past, when the first stars and galaxies were formed, ushering in an exciting new era of space observation, and expanding our understanding of the universe.”