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BAE Systems to acquire Ball Aerospace for $5.6BN

17 Aug 2023

Business known for its space telescope expertise set to become part of the global defense giant.

Ball Aerospace, the company that built the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is set to become part of BAE Systems, in a cash deal valued at $5.6 billion.

Announcing the agreement, which remains subject to regulatory approvals, BAE Systems said that the acquisition would advance its position in some of the fastest-growing segments of the defense market, which includes precision optics and state-of-the-art imaging technologies.

“Ball Aerospace has a long and distinguished track record as a proven partner and pioneering innovator, with expertise in spacecraft, mission payloads, optical systems, conformal antennas, and electronically steered arrays,” BAE Systems noted.

Its CEO Charles Woodburn added: "It’s rare that a business of this quality, scale and complementary capabilities, with strong growth prospects and a close fit to our strategy, becomes available."

In a separate announcement Ball Corporation - the aerospace division’s parent company - said that the deal should be completed in the first half of next year.

Ball CEO Daniel Fisher said: “BAE Systems is well-positioned to invest in Ball Aerospace to elevate the combined business to new heights, generate significant value to critical mission partners, offer customers more affordable solutions, and enable a safer world for all stakeholders benefiting from today's agreement.”

From a corporate point of view, the transaction will enable Ball - which had said in June that it was “considering options” for the future of the aerospace division - to concentrate on its core business of making aluminum cans.

Space telescopes and electro-optics
Following on from its success with the Hubble Space Telescope and JWST, Ball Aerospace has been selected to design and develop the Wide Field Instrument (WFI) Opto-Mechanical Assembly for NASA’s Nancy Roman Space Telescope mission.

The assembly includes the optical bench, thermal control system, precision mechanisms, optics, electronics, and the relative calibration system, and also provides the stable structure and thermal environment that will enable the wide field, high quality observations of WFI.

In contrast to missions such as JWST and Hubble, Ball's design will ensure that the Roman telescope has a much wider field of view, capturing images approximately the size of the full moon as viewed from Earth.

Other projects where Ball Aerospace is playing a lead role include the MethaneSAT mission to spot emissions from oil and gas operations from space, currently slated for launch in early 2024.

The “LandSat-9” satellite, launched in 2021, also features a state-of-the-art imaging system built by Ball Aerospace, capable of capturing scenes across a 185 km swath with each pixel representing an area about 30 m across - and therefore able to identify areas such as individual crop fields.

Other photonics-related areas of expertise include cameras, high-bandwidth laser communication links and lidar imaging technologies, while the division also produces components for electronic warfare, and surveillance.

Headquartered in Colorado, Ball Aerospace currently employs around 5200 people, 60 per cent of whom hold US security clearances.

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