Boeing/Lockheed JV Unit Secures $27M Contract for EELV

United Launch Services, LLC (“ULS”), a subsidiary of United Launch Alliance (“ULA”) – a Lockheed Martin Corp. LMT and The Boeing Co. BA joint venture (“JV”) – has won a modification contract from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) for launch vehicle production services (“LVPS”). This comes under the requirements contract terms of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Phase I contract.

Contract Details

The contract is valued at $27.4 million and is awarded by the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA.

Per the modification, ULS will carry out necessities for the launch vehicle conversion from heritage avionics to the common versions. In addition, it comprises a not-to-exceed contract line item for the same conversion.

Work is scheduled to be complete by Jul 1, 2019 and will be performed in Decatur, AL. The contract will use fiscal 2016 space procurement funds.

A Brief Note on EELV

The EELV is a funded USAF launch system program that provides space launch services for national security space (NSS) payloads. The program began in the 1990s with the aim to make government space launches more reasonably priced and dependable. Hence, two launch systems were developed – Delta IV and Atlas V, which were later joined by Falcon 9.

These launch systems are the primary methods for launching U.S. military satellites. The USAF intends to employ the EELV family of launch vehicles until at least 2030.

About ULA

Formed about a decade ago, this 50:50 JV provides the U.S. government missions with affordable, reliable and assured access to space. It has three launch vehicles – Atlas V, Delta IV and Delta II. ULA's launch vehicles have played a major role in the U.S. space ventures, given its highest commitment to crew safety and mission success.

Price Movement

Lockheed Martin’s stock has improved 11.5% in the last one year, underperforming the Zacks categorized Aerospace/Defense industry’s gain of 20.8%. This could be because of the pressure put by earlier budget-cuts on the top line although the present defense budget lies more in favor of the sector. Budget deficits and political uncertainty make future defense budgets vulnerable to cutbacks.

On the other hand, Boeing’s stock has improved 34.9% in the last year, outperforming the Zacks categorized Aerospace/Defense industry’s gain. This could be due to financial flexibility provided by the company’s strong balance sheet and cash flows in matters of incremental dividend, ongoing share repurchases and earnings accretive acquisitions.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing currently carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A couple of other favorably placed stocks in the aerospace and defense space include Northrop Grumman Corp. NOC and Leidos Holdings, Inc. LDOS, both carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

On average, Northrop Grumman has delivered a positive earnings surprise of 25.17% in the last 4 quarters. The company’s 2017 earnings estimates increased 3.9% over the last 30 days.

Leidos Holdings delivered a positive earnings surprise of 12.82% in the last quarter. The company’s 2017 earnings estimates increased 0.6% in the last 7 days.

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