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Northrop Grumman aims for space with $7.8-billion bid to buy Orbital ATK

• latimes.com By Samantha Masunaga

Orbital, based in Dulles, Va., has developed several small to medium-sized rockets that can hoist payloads into space. The company also makes small satellites.

Northrop is best known for its bombers, drones and other military equipment. It built the B-2 bomber in Palmdale and has a contract to build the follow-up B-21 fleet, which could eventually cost more than $80 billion. But it also makes satellite components and has manufactured large satellites. The Falls Church, Va., firm is constructing the James Webb Space Telescope, an $8.8-billion spacecraft with a 21-foot-diameter mirror that is set to capture the oldest light in the universe.

"It'll be a juggernaut of an aerospace company," said Phil Smith, space industry analyst at consulting firm Bryce Space and Technology. "You'll have basically a full suite of space capabilities."

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