Northrop Grumman has increased its 40 percent ownership in Scaled Composites, the Mojave, California, company that launched SpaceShipOne into suborbit, to 100 percent. In effect, Northrop has purchased a "Skunk Works" like the one owned by Lockheed Martin where rapid prototyping and innovation is possible.
Scaled Composites has worked with Northrop on many projects, including a scale model of the B-2 bomber (Northrop Grumman was the prime contractor), a surveillance radar tested on the Scaled Composites Proteus high-altitude aircraft, and the X-47A unmanned aerial vehicle, designed for launch from aircraft carriers. A Northrop spokesman said the current Scaled Composites leadership will remain at the helm and efforts to develop a suborbital space tourism business with Virgin Group will continue. The technology from that program may help Northrop compete when NASA goes shopping for a space shuttle replacement. Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan sold and repurchased the company twice since it was founded in 1982. - Alton K. Marsh
August 29, 2007