US companies see opportunities in Obama space plan

*Companies await more info on Obama space plans

*ITT upbeat on technology, Aerojet cites R&D

By Karen Jacobs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 14 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. defense
companies are hopeful that President Barack Obama’s plans to
use $6 billion over the next five years for space exploration
will provide them with fresh revenue.

Obama is expected to go to Cape Canaveral, Florida on
Thursday to discuss his strategy for NASA’s future. Three
former astronauts, including the first man to walk on the moon
Neil Armstrong, have criticized the president’s stripped down
plans for the space agency and cutbacks on its Constellation
program that was to send crews to the moon and Mars.

Instead, Obama’s plans call for the involvement of
commercial contractors to develop ways to get crews into
low-earth orbit.

Companies attending this week’s National Space Symposium
conference in Colorado Springs were eager to hear more details
about the federal government’s investment in research and
development.

“As we watch the president’s path forward unfold, we’re
certainly not disappointed in it,” said Chris Young, president
of geospatial systems at ITT Corp (ITT.N: ), whose space products
include cameras that produce satellite pictures.

Harris Corp (HRS.N: ), which makes antenna reflectors
deployed on orbit as well as tactical radios for soldiers that
distribute voice and data in an encrypted form, is looking for
ways to leverage its satellite communications knowhow to meet
emerging space needs.

“We are excited that (Obama) is going to invest more in
technology,” said William Gattle, vice president of programs
for Harris Corp’s space systems business.

White House officials said on Tuesday that Obama wants NASA
to begin work on a new heavy lift rocket sooner than envisioned
under the canceled Constellation program.

Aerojet, a unit of GenCorp Inc (GY.N: ) that makes engines
for the Orion spacecraft under the cancelled program, said it
hoped to have opportunities to build on its propulsion
expertise with the new strategy.

The plans promote “a healthy competitive environment which
is going to push all of us into sharpening our pencils and
putting our best foot forward,” said Scott Seymour, Aerojet
president and chief executive. “It presents great opportunities
in the areas of R&D.”

A spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin (LMT.N: ), the prime
contractor for Orion, said her company’s participation in
commercial projects would depend on how contracts were set up.
She cited a need for information on how such deals would be
structured.

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(Reporting by Karen Jacobs, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

US companies see opportunities in Obama space plan