Category: Aerospace

DigitalGlobe’s loss widens despite jump in 1Q revenue

LONGMONT – Satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe Inc. (NYSE: DGI) saw its first-quarter net loss grow from $600,000 a year ago to $5.9 million this year despite an 8.2 percent increase in revenue.

The Longmont-based company, which is planning to move its headquarters to Westminster this year, reported its financial results for the first quarter of 2015 after markets closed Thursday. DigitalGlobe’s share price closed at $32.17, down 48 cents from the previous day.

DigitalGlobe’s net loss came out to 8 cents per diluted share compared to 1 cent per diluted share a year ago.

The company reported revenue of $169.4 million, with the increase due to a 17.6 percent boost in U.S. government revenue to $114.8 million.

The government revenue boost offset a 7.3 percent decline in diversified commercial revenue. About 2 percentage points of that decline, the company said, was attributable to “continued challenges in Russia.”

The company generated $25.6 million in free cash flow for the quarter, and reaffirmed guidance on its expected revenue for the full year 2015 at $725 million to $750 million.

“We expect our Diversified Commercial growth to improve in the second half as we monetize (the company’s new WorldView-3 satellite) and generate results form a number of new products and initiatives,” CEO Jeffrey Tarr said in a press release.

Ball Corp. suffers sales, income decline in 1Q

BROOMFIELD — Ball Corp. (NYSE: BLL) on Wednesday reported a decline in sales and net income for its first quarter of 2015, which ended March 31.

The Broomfield-based can manufacturer reported sales of $1.9 billion for the quarter, compared with $2 billion for the same period a year ago. Net earnings for the quarter declined to $20.7 million compared with $93.5 million in first quarter 2014.

John A. Hayes, Ball Corp.’s chairman, president and chief executive, said in a prepared statement that first quarter results were “largely impacted by expected headwinds from foreign currency translation, higher metal premiums in Europe, and startup costs related to growth capital investments.

“We continue to invest in our future with ongoing capital projects in North America, Europe and Southeast Asia that will fully ramp up in the second half of 2015 and the first half of 2016,” he said.

In February, Ball Corp. announced its intent to acquire Rexam PLC, a can manufacturer based in London. Hayes said the proposal aligns with Ball’s longstanding capital allocation strategy. “Our work to secure necessary regulatory approvals to complete the acquisition is proceeding as expected,” he said.

Ball’s subsidiary, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, reported earnings of $20 million on sales of $214.8 million for the first quarter, compared with earnings of $24.1 million on sales of $220.7 million during first quarter 2014.

During the most recent quarter, Ball Aerospace passed the critical design review for the Geostationary Environment Monitoring Spectrometer, which will monitor trans-boundary pollution events for the Korean peninsula and Asia-Pacific region. This month, Ball is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, for which Ball built seven optical instruments.

Ball to open can-making plant in Mexico

BROOMFIELD — Ball Corp. announced plans Monday to build a two-line beverage-can manufacturing plant near Monterrey, Mexico.

The plant, which complements the North American metal beverage packaging footprint for Broomfield-based Ball (NYSE: BLL), is expected to open in early 2016 and produce multiple can sizes. Most of the plant’s capacity will be contracted under a long-term agreement, Ball officials said.

Renee Robinson, Ball’s director of corporate communications, said construction will begin soon on the plant, which will be located in the Finsa Guadalupe Industrial Park, near the international airport just east of Monterrey. Robinson said Ball plans to employ more than 200 people at the plant, but that the size of the facility could not yet be disclosed.

“The demand for standard and specialty metal beer packaging continues to grow, and the Monterrey plant will allow us to expand our customer base and product portfolio,” said Daniel W. Fisher, Ball’s president of North American metal beverage packaging, in a prepared statement. “This returns-oriented growth project broadens our geographic reach into a new and growing market for Ball’s global metal beverage packaging business.

Monterrey, capital of the state of Nuevo Leon, is Mexico’s third largest metropolitan area, with a population of more than 4 million. It is located 140 miles south-southwest of Laredo, Texas.



Sierra Nevada Corp. extends pact with German space agency for Dream Chaser work

Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Space Systems division signed a new deal with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on Thursday, extending the pair’s collaboration on the development of SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft.

The deal was signed at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

SNC had signed a one-year technical agreement with DLR in 2013. The new agreement extends through 2017. It continues the work between the two advance crewed and uncrewed capabilities of Dream Chaser for European use.

The continued collaboration with European agencies is a boost for SNC, which last year lost out on a major round of contracts with NASA to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. SNC has submitted a proposal to carry cargo to the ISS for NASA’s next round of contracts, which some have estimated could be worth roughly $14 billion.

Report: Colorado’s technology sector still riding high

The competition for attracting technology jobs is getting more intense every year, but Colorado still is running near the front of the pack.

The state ranked third in the nation for its concentration of high-tech workers and fifth for percentage of its payroll coming from technology industries, according to “Cyberstates 2015,” an annual report from the nonprofit TechAmerica Foundation that also found that the technology industry accounted for 11.3 percent of the state’s economy in 2014.

“It doesn’t surprise me based on what we’re seeing in the community,” said Todd Headley, president of CSU Ventures, the technology arm of Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

The report identified “hubs” of concentration in certain states. Washington, for instance, has the highest concentration of software publishers, while Arizona and Oregon are meccas for semiconductor manufacturing.

“Digital health is certainly an area that’s growing here,” Headley said, “but any of these tech sectors that are strong and growing – it helps the whole ecosystem.”

The figure for concentration of workers in Colorado – at 9.2 percent of the workforce – trailed only Massachusetts at 9.8 percent and Virginia at 9.4 percent, and far exceeded the national average of 5.7 percent. Even more pronounced was technology’s slice of the payroll pie in Colorado; 18.4 percent of the state’s total came from the tech sector, fifth behind California at 20 percent, Virginia at 19.3 percent, and Massachusetts and Washington at 19 percent each.

“We planted this seed here in Colorado long ago and watered it, and now it’s bearing fruit,” said Ryan Martens, founder and chief technology officer at Boulder-based Rally Software Development Corp. (NYSE: RALY). “A lot of it comes from the different sectors – high tech, green tech, life sciences, telecom – working together.”

Technology’s importance to Colorado’s economy also is reflected in its share of the state’s gross domestic product. By the end of 2014, according to the report, the tech industry in Colorado accounted for 11.3 percent of the state’s GDP, trailing only Oregon at 26.5 percent and Washington at 12 percent – and compared with 7.1 percent in the nation as a whole.

“While Colorado continues to be a leader in the technology sector, we know it will continue to take a lot of work to maintain the momentum, so public and private policy need to prioritize keeping Colorado as a top innovation center,” said Mike Freeman, chief executive of Innosphere, a Fort Collins-based clean-tech incubator. “To keep Colorado at the top, we need to get better at reducing manufacturing risk. We know this because over the past 24 months, Innosphere saw a high number of companies fail because they were never able to effectively address their technology-development risks.”

Colorado had 186,149 tech-industry jobs with a total annual payroll of $19 billion by the end of 2014, the report said, up from 156,900 and $14.2 billion just four years ago. Its average tech-industry salary of $101,842 a year ranks ninth in the nation and was nearly twice the state average for private-sector wages, which stood at about $51,000.

Twenty-four companies have graduated from Innosphere’s incubation program in the past two years, Freeman said, creating 204 jobs with an average full-time salary of $94,334.

Martens pointed to more initial public offerings on the horizon in Colorado’s tech sector as a factor that will build visibility and management caliber on which companies in the state can draw. But he said that very attraction and growth can create problems that could hinder tech-industry growth in Colorado.

“We’ve got to address housing affordability, transportation and diversity in the workforce,” he said. “Some of the greatest technology innovations are in the Silicon Valley, but it’s getting pretty hard to live there. And what’s happened to Austin (Texas) is fantastic, just in the past three years – but the traffic is abominable.”

With the U.S. Department of Labor forecasting that the United States will have 1 million more technology-industry jobs than candidates to fill them by 2020 if trends continue, Colorado’s high rankings are likely to continue to serve as lures for workers from other states who haven’t ridden the tech wave as successfully.

A recent story in the Miami Herald featured the case of Brad DeRolf, who has worked in the technology sector for 35 years but took a senior quality-assurance position at Intel in Fort Collins because he couldn’t find an opportunity in south Florida at the pay and level of benefits he wanted. Florida’s average salary for tech workers in 2014 was $80,367, according to the report, about 80 percent of what firms in Colorado pay – even though Florida ranked fourth in the number of tech jobs added in 2014 and near the top for total jobs in 10 of the report’s 17 industry segments.

DeRolf still owns a home in the Fort Lauderdale area, but for now he’s a Coloradan.

“Too many employers seek employees that have done the exact job rather than look at the successes of the prospect and what they can bring to the company,” DeRolf told the Herald. “Any programmer worth a dime can learn a new language rapidly. (Companies) should be more concerned with the overall aptitude and ‘gets it’ factor of new employees.”

Computer-systems design and IT services made up nearly a third of all tech jobs in Colorado in 2014, followed by engineering services, telecommunications, and R&D and testing labs.

Although the software-publishing industry claimed the fifth-biggest share of tech jobs in the state, it was the only one in the top five to have lost positions over the previous year in Colorado. That sector had 11,500 jobs in 2014, according to the report, down from 11,900 in 2013.

Although space- and defense-systems manufacturing accounted for just 5,600 jobs in Colorado, that was enough to rank the state fifth in the nation, behind California, Arizona, Florida and Massachusetts.

The producer of the report, the TechAmerica Foundation, sponsors research projects, surveys and conferences to examine critical technology issues within the federal sector. Arlington, Va.-based Professional Services Council, a group that counts defense and technology companies from Lockheed Martin to Amazon Web Services as members, acquired TechAmerica last month – just after the Cyberstates report was issued – from Downers Grove, Ill-based CompTIA Properties LLC, an information technology trade association, which itself had acquired TechAmerica last year.

“We have been working closely with Congress and the administration to make IT training and certification a priority,” said Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA. “The average IT worker’s salary is double that of the private sector and we must continue to expand access to these jobs, many of which do not require a four-year degree.”

Dallas Heltzell can be reached at 970-232-3149, 303-630-1962 or Follow him on Twitter at @DallasHeltzell.

Sierra Nevada unveils cargo-only Dream Chaser with folding wings

The unmanned cargo-only version of the Dream Chaser spacecraft that Sierra Nevada Corp. unveiled Tuesday will have folding wings and an added cargo module attached to the back.

The changes from the crewed version of Dream Chaser, company officials said, will help add to the vehicle’s versatility as SNC vies for an estimated $14 billion in NASA contracts to carry supplies and experiments to the International Space Station from 2018 to 2024.

Landing a piece of the NASA cargo contracts would be a big boost for SNC, which bases its Space Systems division in Louisville. The company lost out last year to Boeing and SpaceX for $6.8 billion worth of contracts to carry NASA astronauts to the ISS.

SNC Space Systems employs between 250 and 300 people at its Louisville headquarters after laying off about 90 following the NASA Commercial Crew decision. An SNC spokesperson on Tuesday said the company would likely add 300 to 400 jobs in Louisville if it wins a piece of the cargo contracts, which are to be awarded in June.

SNC officials, who conducted a teleconference with media from Washington, were enthusiastic Tuesday about the fact that much of the work done for the crewed version of Dream Chaser applies to the cargo version due to their identical form. But there are plenty of key differences between the two, most notably the foldable wings.

While the crewed version is designed to fly into space atop an Atlas 5 rocket, the foldable wings allow the cargo-only version to fit within a standard fairing that can attach to a variety of launch systems, such as the Ariane 5 or 6.

The added cargo module, meanwhile, increases the payloads that can be carried to and from the ISS. All of the human factors have also been removed from the interior of the cargo-only vehicle to maximize cargo space. Officials touted the vehicle’s ability to exceed NASA’s requirements for the amount of both pressurized and unpressurized cargo that can be ferried to and from the station.

“It’s capable of meeting all of NASA’s cargo requirements within the same system,” said Mark Sirangelo, who heads SNC Space Systems.

SNC officials have long touted Dream Chaser’s cargo-carrying advantages, particularly its gentle re-entry and runway landing capabilities that help protect cargo like scientific experiments that have been conducted in space. Officials on Tuesday also spoke highly of the quick access Dream Chaser will allow to cargo upon landing. All cargo will be able to be retrieved from the spacecraft within 24 hours of landing, versus the NASA requirement of 14 days.

SNC, which is still working on its crewed capabilities under its old Commercial Crew contract with NASA, has a second test flight for Dream Chaser coming later this year. The composite structure of the first vehicle that will go into orbit is being built at Lockheed Martin and is slated for completion by April, at which time it will be returned to Louisville and outfitted for flight by 2018.

SNC officials said Tuesday that the tweaks to the cargo-only version of Dream Chaser don’t mean the company is giving up on crewed flight, saying the new aspects of Dream Chaser will be transferrable to crewed flight should the company be able to strike a deal with NASA in the future.

“We actually think we’re enhancing and accelerating that crewed capability,” Sirangelo said.

Eco-devo chief: Longmont poised to lure aerospace, tech

LONGMONT — Economic-development expert Tom Clark waxed nostalgic Wednesday recalling how Longmont was a critical player in the early days of economic development in Colorado.

Clark, chief executive of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., speaking at the Longmont Area Economic Council Breakfast Series, recalled how Larry Green of Longmont, along with several others, garnered the nickname of the Magnificent Seven in economic development circles during the 1980s, and then when another person was added to the group, it became known as the Crazy 8.

In the 1980s, The Economic Development Association of Longmont, the LAEC’s predecessor, along with groups in Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland formed what Clark called the Golden Triangle, working to attract businesses to the region.

He said thanks to the efforts of Susan Pratt and her late husband, Ken Pratt, who hosted Japanese dignitaries for a visit to Longmont, made Longmont the best known city in Colorado among companies in Japan during the 1990s.

“When we went to pitch Denver to some of them, they asked if Denver was anywhere near Longmont,” Clark said.

Clark now oversees the Denver Metro Economic Development Corp., which works a region in Colorado from Castle Rock north to the Wyoming border with 70 partner organizations, including the LAEC and the Boulder Economic Council, he said.

His organization researches and maintains data sought by site selectors and companies looking to relocate.

“We are the nerdiest people you’d want to meet,” he quipped.

Clark commended the recent consolidation of the city of Longmont and the Longmont Area Economic Council’s economic-development efforts.

“Longmont is seen as having a consistently quality economic development program,” he said.

The consolidation resulted in developing the Advance Longmont program that will focus on external marketing, redevelopment within the city, and which will help small businesses and entrepreneurs develop.

Clark said there are similarities among the industry clusters that his group and LAEC are targeting, including aerospace and defense, data storage, computers and electronics, energy components and agricultural technology. Clark said Longmont has several things that are appealing to companies that want to relocate to a new area including low housing prices and an increase in cultural activities. “Longmont is a good second-choice for techies,” he said.

Clark also pointed out the top issues facing the region:

Transportation: There is a big need to improve Interstate 25 in Northern Colorado and I-70 to the east, he said. “We won’t be able to build what’s needed with existing tax revenue, unless we add foreign investments in partnerships, such as European or Asian investments.”

Energy: Clark said the growth rate of oil and gas revenue in the region is slowing due to the drop of oil prices. “Oil needs to be at $60 per barrel in order for companies here to make money.”

Housing prices: “Our region’s housing costs have been spiraling. We have the highest median sales prices of cities in the country that don’t have a coastline. Median sale prices for single-family homes has jumped from $315,000 to $375,000.”

Infrastructure: “We have a need for new infrastructure to accommodate growth. … We need to find a way to build infrastructure that will last us for another 100 years.”

Labor force: “We have high wages, but that translates to an expensive labor market for companies looking to move here.”

Water: Supply and rising costs pose an obstacle for development.


Longmont-based DigitalGlobe swings to profit in 2014

LONGMONT – Satellite-imagery provider DigitalGlobe Inc. (NYSE: DGI) swung to profit in 2014, reporting full-year net income of $13.9 million, or 18 cents per share.

Most of that profit, $10.7 million, came during a strong fourth quarter as the Longmont-based company begins cashing in revenue related to the launch of its new WorldView-3 satellite launched in August.

Revenue for 2014 climbed 6.8 percent to $654.6 million, with the company projecting even bigger 11 to 15 percent gains in that department for 2015.

The DigitalGlobe earnings report came after markets closed Thursday. The company’s stock, rising and falling over the past 12 months between $23.85 and $34.61, declined 1 percent from Wednesday’s close to $28.45. But shares had risen more than 2 percent in after-hours trading within 40 minutes of the earnings report.

“2014 was a milestone year for DigitalGlobe, as we marked our transition from a period of investment in building the world’s leading Earth observation capability to a new era of growth, margin expansion, free cash flow and improving returns,” CEO Jeffrey Tarr said in the earnings release. “In 2015, we will accelerate growth through increased capacity and new product offerings that leverage our data, analytics and unique geospatial information capabilities.”

DigitalGlobe reported revenue of $185.7 million for the fourth quarter, up from $169.7 million the year before. U.S. Government revenue in the period rose 17.8 percent to $114.4 million. Diversified Commercial revenue, meanwhile, decreased 1.8 percent to $71.3 million, the company said, due to a $5.8 million year-over-year decline in Russia.

On Wednesday, the company announced that it was opening up its 30-centimeter resolution imagery made possible by WorldView-3 to all customers. Until getting permission from the U.S. Commerce Department last year, the highest-resolution the company was allowed to sell to most commercial customers was 50-centimeter resolution.

US Navy awards Ball Aerospace $23M contract

BOULDER — Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. has received a nearly $23 million contract to modify and repair antenna hardware for the U.S. Navy.

The Boulder-based company, a subsidiary of Broomfield-based Ball Corp. (NYSE: BLL) will procure spares of existing hardware, perform redesign activities associated with modifications to existing hardware, repair existing hardware and integrate new or existing hardware into a prototype system, the Defense Department said.

Ball Aerospace will perform the work at its Westminster-based facility through February 2020 under the indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. The amount of the contract is $22.9 million.

The Navy owns the hardware under its networking infrastructure and the Affordable Common Radar Architecture projects.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Dalghren Division in Dahlgren, Va., manages the hardware system and conducts research, development, test and evaluation tasks related to those projects.

Fort Collins’ Woodward to issue 10-cent dividend

FORT COLLINS – Woodward Inc. (Nasdaq: WWD) will issue a dividend of 10 cents per share, up from 8 cents per share, the Fort Collins-based energy and aerospace company said.

Woodward said its Board of Directors approved the 25 percent increase payable March 2, 2015, for shareholders of record as of Feb. 13, 2015.

Woodward shares rose 1 percent to $45.84 in afternoon trading.

The company reported first-quarter earnings of $43.8 million vs. $23.4 million during the same period a year earlier.