Guided Missiles and Space Vehicles

SIC 3761

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing guided missiles and space vehicles. This industry also includes establishments owned by guided missile and space vehicle manufacturers and primarily engaged in research and development on these products, whether from enterprise funds or on a contract or fee basis. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing guided missile and space vehicle propulsion units and propulsion unit parts are classified in SIC 3764: Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Propulsion Units and Propulsion Unit Parts; those manufacturing space satellites are classified in SIC 3669: Communications Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified; those manufacturing guided missile and space vehicle airborne and ground guidance, checkout, and launch electronic systems and components are classified in SIC 3812: Search, Detection, Navigation, Guidance, Aeronautical, and Nautical Systems and Instruments; and those manufacturing guided missile and space vehicle airframes, nose cones, and space capsules are classified in SIC 3769: Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Parts and Auxiliary Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified. Research and development on guided missiles and space vehicles, on a contract or fee basis, by establishments not owned by guided missile or space vehicle manufacturers are classified in SIC 8731: Commercial Physical and Biological Research.

Industry Snapshot

The defense market accounts for some 60 percent of sales in the aerospace and defense industries, which includes guided missile and space vehicle manufacturers. After enduring a decrease in the value of shipments in the early years of the first decade of the 2000s, guided missile and space vehicle manufacturers shipped goods with a value of more than $15.5 billion in 2007, up modestly from the standard the industry recorded at the end of the 1990s. By 2009 the total value of shipments had reached $16.1 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Missile orders were also on the rise. The U.S. space program did not fare as well. The Columbia space shuttle disaster in February 2003 and ensuing concerns about manned spacecraft and safety challenged an industry already plagued by a drop in government funding for big space projects. The Columbia tragedy resulted in a delay of more than two years in construction missions by the shuttle fleet. Meanwhile, refurbishing the International Space Station (ISS) was plagued by cost overruns and proved to be a much larger effort than anticipated. Although President George W. Bush had planned to end ISS operations in 2015, President Obama extended it past that time, and in 2011, the European Space Agency, following Russia and Japan, formally agreed to extend ISS operations through at least 2020.

Organization and Structure

This industry classification comprises a large part of the revenue of the aerospace industry, which was made up of roughly 4,000 companies in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s. However, only about a dozen companies were actively involved in the production of guided missiles and space vehicles, and the five largest establishments, which each had 2,500 or more employees, accounted for approximately 87 percent of shipment values. Due to the size and technical scope of aerospace programs, a company that acts as the primary contractor on one project may be a subcontractor on another project. In 2010 the production of guided missiles and rockets accounted for a majority of sales in this industry, whereas space vehicles and related equipment accounted for only about 9 percent of sales, according to Dun & Bradstreet.

This industry has three subdivisions that are based on the type of manufacturing workload an establishment undertakes: manufacturers of conventional, battlefield, and short- to medium-range guided missiles; producers of strategic ballistic, antiballistic, and long-range missiles; and manufacturers of space vehicles. Establishments rely on state-of-the-art systems management in which a subcontractor, often the major computer hardware supplier, supervises hundreds of companies at one time. The development of systems management in the United States has been credited to this industry.

Background and Development

The history of this industry is characterized by the world political climate and technological developments. In the United States, wars and foreign policy directly affected the production of guided missiles, while the space race with the Soviet Union prompted U.S. production of space vehicles. Two major technological developments also have spurred growth in this industry: the gas turbine engine, developed in the late 1940s for supersonic speed, and the ballistic missile, first developed in the late 1950s for long-range capabilities in war and space exploration.

The aerospace industry emerged from the aftermath of World War II, which introduced jet rockets and atomic weaponry. These developments added to the already growing aviation industry that was established in the late 1920s with the success of Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic. Many companies that were in the aviation business later made the transition into aerospace technology by manufacturing missiles for the U.S. military during World War II.

Space vehicles developed into an industry during the mid-1950s, when the United States became engaged in the "space race" with the Soviet Union. Initially, space vehicles explored the earth's upper atmosphere and the moon. The first manned trip to the moon sparked new interest in space technology that peaked in the late 1960s.

The 1960s also marked tremendous growth in the development of guided missiles. Missiles manufactured in the United States were sold to parties in conflict in the Middle East and to other troubled areas of the world. The production of both missiles and space vehicles decreased during the mid- to late 1970s as a result of the end of the Vietnam War and the economic recession.

During the 1980s the guided missile sector of this industry hit its all-time peak due to renewed defense spending during the Reagan administration. During this "arms race," missile sales escalated from slightly more than $10 billion in 1983 to nearly $14 billion in 1988, according to the Electronic Industries Association. President Reagan also proposed the development of anti-ballistic strategic defenses, commonly known as the Star Wars initiative, to counter possible Soviet missile attacks.

However, by the end of the 1980s, another dramatic shift occurred in this industry. The fall of the Iron Curtain started the dismantling of the Soviet Union's satellite empire in eastern Europe, and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union itself, causing U.S. defense spending to be greatly reduced. From 1987 to 1994, U.S. Defense Department spending for aircraft dropped from more than $30 billion to slightly more than $19 billion. Similarly, the government budget for research and development in defense and space technology dropped significantly. This also was attributed to the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, in which seven astronauts perished.

Missiles.
Missiles are classified as either conventional or strategic. Strategic missiles refer to long-range missiles, particularly those with nuclear warheads, and include ballistic and cruise missiles. Ballistic missiles are rocket-propelled systems that are launched either from land or sea and move by the launch rocket momentum. Cruise missiles are powered continuously by air-breathing jet engines. These types of missiles are aided by guidance systems and early warning devices on satellites.

Among the types of guided missiles are anti-tank and assault, anti-ship, air-to-surface, air-to-air, and surface-to-air. Anti-tank and assault missiles were developed in the United States after World War II, although some accounts have Germany developing these missiles near the end of the war. These missiles were first installed on light trucks and helicopters and were equipped with warheads to penetrate armor. In early models, tracking was visual, with commands controlled by a hand-operated system transmitted by wire. Later, anti-tank missiles commands were transmitted by radio, laser, and infrared homing techniques. By the 1980s, optical fibers had become the standard guidance device for these missiles.

Anti-ship missiles were designed to fight against the heavy armor of warships. These types of guided missiles received little attention by U.S. manufacturers after World War II until the Soviet Union began developing them. The United States countered with turbojet-powered missiles like the Harpoon, which weighed about 1,200 pounds and carried a warhead weighing 420 pounds. Later, the U.S. Navy introduced the Tomahawk Land Attack Missle (TLAM), described by the Navy as an "all-weather, long range, subsonic cruise missile used for land attack warfare, launched from U. S. Navy surface ships and U.S. Navy and Royal Navy submarines" and was intended for strategic nuclear defense. Its anti-ship version carried a modified Harpoon guidance system. By the 1980s, anti-ship missiles were developed for stealth aircraft with visual, infrared, and radar tracking.

Air-to-surface missiles became standard in U.S. combat by the late 1950s with the AGM-12 Bullpup, a rocket-powered tracking missile with visual tracking and radio transmitted commands. After several variations of the AGM-type missiles were employed during the Vietnam War, the Bullpup was replaced by the AGM-64/65 Maverick group of rocket-powered missiles, which first used television tracking and later used infrared devices.

Air-to-air missiles were first developed in the United States in the late 1940s with the subsonic Firebird, a radar-guided missile. However, this particular missile became obsolete within a few years, replaced by supersonic missiles, such as the Falcon, the Sidewinder, and the Sparrow. The Sidewinder became the most used of these missile, and later versions of this missile had highly sensitive emission seekers. Tactical demands brought about improvements in air-to-air technology, which resulted in long-range air-interception missiles and missiles with higher maneuverability.

Surface-to-air missiles were first introduced by the Germans during World War II, but were not widely used until the 1950s and 1960s. The most important U.S.-produced surface-to-air missile was the Hawk, which was extremely effective in targeting low-flying aircraft. In the mid-1980s, the Hawk was replaced by the Patriot, which gained popularity as during the Persian Gulf War.

Space Vehicles.
There are three basic types of space vehicles: space capsules with rocket boosters, re-entry vehicles, and satellites. Satellites are classified under SIC 3669: Communications Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified. Space vehicles are made of two basic components--the launch vehicle and the spacecraft, also referred to as the payload. The spacecraft is unpowered and relies on the initial velocity provided by the launch vehicle, so it can either enter an orbit around earth or continue to a further destination.
Space capsules with rocket boosters were first designed and tested in the United States in the mid-1950s with the intent of sending a man into outer space. The capsules are environmentally controlled containers for living organisms. The rockets attached to the space capsule are used for launching the capsule and later separate from it.

Re-entry vehicles, such as space shuttles, were first launched by the United States in 1981. These space vehicles were designed to go into orbit around the earth, drop off a payload such as a satellite, and return to earth making a glider-type landing. Shuttles are made of three basic components: a winged orbiter that houses crew and cargo, an external tank containing fuel and liquid oxygen, and booster rockets, which separate from the space craft and return to earth. By 1990, the United States had used four shuttles on repeated missions, but also with much difficulty. Technical and design problems frequently delayed launches and also were responsible for the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986.

Satellites, classified under SIC 3669: Communications Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified, are spacecraft that revolve around planets and are used for communications, weather forecasting, scientific research, and military reconnaissance. The first satellite was launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union. By the end of the 1980s, there were hundreds of satellites orbiting earth and nearby planets. In the early 1990s, an estimated $3 billion annually went into the manufacturing of communications satellites in the United States alone. The estimated figure for 1995 was almost $8 billion.
This industry was affected by the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in July 1991. According to the treaty, guided missiles with nuclear warheads would no longer be produced and 30 percent of existing ones would be destroyed.

By the end of the century, both national and international manufacturers were forming partnerships to stay competitive. The merger of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas produced new U.S.-built rockets: the Delta 2 and the Delta 3. The company's Delta 4 rockets, which were able to carry heavier payloads, were launched 19 times with a value of $1.37 billion for missions between fiscal years 2002 and 2006. Boeing was hopeful that the EELV program would help to elevate the company into a leading launch provider. Boeing also partnered with Ukraine's Yuzhnoye, Russia's Khrunichev, and Norway's Kvaerner for the Sea Launch project, which was launched for the first time from a mobile platform in the Pacific Ocean near the equator in October 1999. Hughes Space and Communications purchased 13 of the 18 launch slots in the belief that the satellites would have a longer life span by being launched at the low latitude near the equator. By 1999 more than 30 major systems in the construction of the International Space Station (ISS) and more than 50 percent of the major tests were completed on the module.

More than 1,700 new satellites were being constructed in 1999 for launches scheduled between 2000 and 2010. New manufacturers appeared in the 1990s due to the high growth in the space launch industry. However, the growth rate leveled off after 2003. Most of the major launch vehicle programs, including Atlas, Cosmos, Delta, the space shuttle, and Long March, dropped to a rate of one every three to four months. The most successful, Arianespace's Arine, of Europe, and Russia's Proton, were averaging one launch every two months. About half of all launch vehicle programs, including Molniya, Pegasus, XL, H-2A, Sea Launch, Zenit, and Titan, were only launching once or twice per year.

Reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) were developed in the late 1990s. Florida and Texas were the frontrunners vying for the futuristic "spaceports" in a market expected to be worth more than $120 billion by 2010. Because of the high demand for Internet and cellular telephone service worldwide, hundreds of satellites were needed in orbit as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. Spaceports were considered to be the answer. NASA showed interest in the VentureStar as a means to replace the space shuttle and become the courier to the International Space Station. Testing began in 2000 and was halted a year later.

The development of reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) had all but disappeared by the early years of the first decade of the 2000s. Once estimated that development and flight testing of commercial RLVs would be feasible in the middle to end of the first decade of the 2000s, those estimates became highly unlikely. The lack of investment capital available to complete a commercial RLV was due to its high risk and lack of customers needed to support a profitable RLV business. With launch costs estimated at $5,000 to $15,000 per pound, the market was slim with launches feasible only once every few years, further driving away prospective RLV investors.

In an effort to reduce launch costs, Lockheed Martin and Boeing introduced Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELVs). The new vehicles were intended to compete with Arianespace, the European launch provider that held half of the world launch market in 2001. The value of the ELV market from 2005 through 2015 was projected to reach $46 billion, with European, Russian, Ukrainian, and U.S. launches accounting for nearly 80 percent of the market.

NASA began to accelerate its efforts to build a new space vehicle after the Columbia tragedy. A digression from its lofty goals at the beginning of the Space Age, NASA awarded $135 million to three major aerospace companies to design small orbital space planes that were large enough to accommodate a crew of four astronauts and favored cost reductions and improved safety over pushing the technological envelope. With no engines of its own, the pilotless plane would ride on top of an expendable rocket, such as an Atlas 5 or Delta 4, and carry very small payloads. Pulling away from ever-advancing technology with these relatively low-tech vehicles marked an important change in the industry.

According to the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the missiles sector of the aerospace industry grew 10 percent during 2004 to a 12-year high of $14.8 billion. Although exports were down, U.S. Department of Defense spending was up $1.3 billion due to increased domestic military spending. Missile orders for 2005 surpassed $15.5 billion before declining to $13.2 billion in 2008. Missile output, meanwhile, fell from over 25,000 in 2003 to less than 23,500 in 2006. Revenues from the space vehicle sector remained steady in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, reaching $385 billion in 2006.

Current Conditions

According to the AIA, sales of U.S. missiles increased steadily through the first decade of the 2000s and by 2010 had reached $26.9 billion, up from $9.3 billion in 2000. Sales of spacecraft also increased, from $29.7 billion in 2000 to $45.5 billion in 2010. In addition, like most manufacturing industries in the United States, employment in the manufacture of guided missiles, space vehicles, and related parts declined during the first decade of the twenty-first century, having been particularly affected by the economic recession at the end of the decade. However, employment declines in this industry were not as severe as in many others, with worker numbers falling from 78,400 in 2000 to 74,700 in 2010.

Many in the overall aerospace and defense industry expressed optimism for the future, despite declining defense budgets. A December 2010 press release by the AIA, for example, stated that sales, orders, and exports had all increased in the third quarter of 2010 and that "This is a positive sign since military aircraft exports will play a more important role for the U.S. aerospace industry as domestic defense spending slows." IBISWorld also expected a recovery in the missile and space vehicle manufacturing industry in the United States, noting in an August 2011 report that growth would be boosted by "ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and other countries and increased spacecraft development by private companies."

Industry Leaders

The Boeing Co. acquired the defense and space units of Rockwell International in 1996 and merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, making it the world's largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft. By 2010 Boeing had been surpassed by Lockheed, but was the second largest defense contractor overall. Based in Chicago, company revenues reached more than $52.5 billion in 2004 and $64.3 billion in 2010. The satellite network known as Internet-in-the-Sky was developed by the teamwork of Boeing and Teledesic Corp. Along with creating an international partnership for the Sea Launch joint venture, the company makes expendable launch vehicles. Two of the business's divisions include "Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Defense" and "Space & Security."

Based in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin was the largest defense contractor in the nation and experienced steady growth during the first decade of the 2000s. Sales for 2008 totaled more than $42.7 billion and by 2010 had reached $45.8 billion. The company began as the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Co. in 1916 but soon changed its name to Lockheed to reflect the correct pronunciation. This company started with the development of its twin-engine, F-1 flying boats. By 1927 Lockheed became widely known for its planes, including the Lockheed Vega that was flown by Amelia Earhart. Lockheed entered the defense industry in 1938 when it was commissioned to build reconnaissance bombers for the British. Lockheed went on to produce a wide range of military planes and early cruise missiles during World War II, including the Harpoon. By the end of the war, the company had produced more than 9 percent of the United States' military aircraft.

After the war, Lockheed established its missile and space division, starting with submarine-launched missiles. During the Cold War, Lockheed developed guided missiles for the Pentagon, including its U-2 spy plane, which had notable success during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. In addition to military contracts, Lockheed stayed in the commercial aircraft business, manufacturing jetliners, but this division nearly placed the company into bankruptcy by the early 1970s. The company finally gained some success in jetliners in the foreign market at the expense of being involved in an international scandal. Lockheed was implicated in accepting bribes from several countries, including Iran and Japan.

During the 1980s, Lockheed led the industry in government defense contracts, primarily to build F-19 stealth bombers and Trident II missiles, as well as to serve NASA's space shuttles. During the early 1990s, the company remained successful in defense technology, with its stealth fighters being used in the Persian Gulf War. After an unsuccessful expansion of its commercial divisions, Lockheed reversed course in an attempt to become the nation's largest defense contractor.

In March 1995, Lockheed merged with Martin Marietta Corp., which, like other industry leaders, had its origins in airplane production in the early days of aviation. Martin Marietta remained closely aligned with U.S. military projects from bomber production in World War II, to rockets and missiles in the 1960s, to space vehicles from the 1970s through the end of the first decade of the 2000s. In April 1996, Lockheed Martin bought Loral Corp., becoming the largest defense contractor in the United States.

Raytheon Missile Systems, located in Tucson, Arizona, was a division of Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon, a global leader in the manufacturing of offensive and defensive missile systems. Raytheon reported revenues of over $20 billion annually through the end of the first decade of the 2000s. The U.S. government accounted for more than 85 percent of company sales.

Other key companies in the manufacture of guided missile systems and space vehicles included Loral Space & Communications Inc. in New York City with $1.1 billion in 2010 sales and ITT Defense and Electronics of McLean, Virginia, with 2010 sales of $6.2 billion. Loral Space & Communications primarily manufactured satellites and satellite-based telecommunications systems. It was formed on June 24, 2005, to succeed the business conducted by Loral Space & Communications Ltd., which was under Chapter 11 protection at the time. ITT Defense and Electronics (ITTD&E), a unit of ITT Industries Inc., was selected by NASA to be its sole supplier of meteorological instruments for the newest members of NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. The company had been a leading supplier of high technology commercial and defense electronic systems and services.

America and the World

The production of strategic missiles, given their nuclear capabilities, was originally restricted to the United States and the Soviet Union. However, since the end of the Cold War, there has been worldwide concern that the superpowers would sell their stockpile of weapons, and possibly new weapons, to Less Developed (formerly called Third World) countries. Other countries that developed missile technology became somewhat successful in ballistic missiles, but less so with cruise missiles. Ballistic missiles do not require the sophisticated guidance system of cruise missiles and adapt to chemical weaponry more easily.

The end of the Cold War, combined with a global economic recession, resulted in a change in the international market for space programs in the 1990s. An industry first monopolized by the United States and the former Soviet Union began to compete with the European Space Agency, the People's Republic of China, and Japan. The new political and economic climate allowed for more cooperative efforts in space. NASA considered Russian contributions to the U.S. Freedom space station and other ventures.

The United States also imported guided missiles and space vehicles, but only on a small scale and primarily for research and development. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration, in 2010 U.S. imports in this industry were worth approximately $1 billion, while exports reached $1.9 billion.

Arianespace, the European consortium, was the global leader in the guided missile and space vehicle industry in 2004, with more than 150 satellites in orbit. As in the United States, the European missile programs were plagued with budget problems through the early years of the first decade of the 2000s. Germany partnered with Canada, Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands to develop the IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile, while the United Kingdom was developing larger, more powerful missiles. Israel was exporting small missiles to Chile, China, Thailand, and South Africa. However, the United States continued to produce the best beyond-visual-range missiles worldwide.

Research and Technology

Engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, partnered with industry leaders to develop graphite epoxy technology. This new material would create lightweight cryogenic fuel lines for such vehicles as NASA's X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator. This new system created a fuel line that was lighter and stronger than metal, and the materials did not expand or contract as much as metal in extreme temperatures.

NASA joined with the U.S. Air Force in the first decade of the 2000s to conduct research in such areas as hypersonic propulsion systems for manned spacecraft. NASA also funded the testing of a decades-old concept of powering a spacecraft using nuclear explosions with the Mini-Mag Orion propulsion. Led by Andrews Space & Technology (AS&T), the bombs were replaced with small pellets of fissile material that would be compressed beyond their supercritical point using a magnetic field. Another magnetic field would serve as the nozzle, directing the resulting plasma away from the vehicle to generate thrust. AS&T intended to seek more funding to develop a 250,000- to 500,000 pound-thrust engine using the concept in less than 10 years.

In September 2007, the $446-million NASA Dawn mission lifted off on an eight-year, 3-billion-mile journey powered by a solar electric ion propulsion system (IPS). Flying to and orbiting two separate bodies hundreds of millions of miles apart, the Dawn spacecraft has more propulsion capability than any previous spacecraft and is able to accelerate at a rate of nearly 7 miles per second. In 2011 the Dawn spacecraft became the first artificial satellite of the asteroid 4 Vesta.

In the early 2010s, ongoing innovations and new projects kept the spacecraft sector of the industry strong. Some U.S. milestones reached in 2011 included the retirement of the space shuttle and the launch of the Zenit-3F, Long March 2F/G, and Taurus II rockets.

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