Anduril acquires solid rocket motor maker

An Adranos tactical-scale solid rocket motor test fire completed in 2021.

An Adranos tactical-scale solid rocket motor test fire completed in 2021. Courtesy of BusinessWire

The defense technology startup wants to change the fact that today the U.S. military has two primary suppliers of this key propulsion technology.

Anduril Industries has made its mark in the defense industry as a software-centric company that specializes in applying artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation to make hardware platforms work better.

Now the six-year-old startup is moving further into the realm of hardware manufacturing through its acquisition of Adranos, a maker of solid rocket motors that are powered by the latter's proprietary aluminum-lithium alloy fuel called ALITEC. Terms of the transaction announced Sunday were not disclosed.

The Defense Department today has two primary suppliers of solid rocket motors: Northrop Grumman through its acquisition of Orbital ATK in 2018, and an Aerojet Rocketdyne outfit that is in the process of being acquired by L3Harris Technologies.

Anduril sees the acquisition as enabling it to become a merchant supplier of solid rocket motors to larger prime contractors that make missiles, hypersonics, space launch vehicles, munitions and other systems that rely on propulsion. The idea is to bring more competition to a heavily-consolidated corner of the defense industry.

“There is a clear need for greater competition and expanded supply in solid rocket motors for the United States and our allies,” Anduril's chief executive Brian Schmipf said in a release. “With this acquisition, Anduril will grow the defense industrial base, speed development and production of critical components with an advanced manufacturing approach, and enable next-generation performance of solid rocket motors with ALITEC, which is crucial for national security and overall health of the defense industry.”

Adranos opened for business in 2015 and makes the solid rocket motors in coastal Mississippi, while the company also opened a fuel production facility in Indiana in 2022.

In becoming part of Anduril, Adranos plans to further develop the Mississippi facility into one that can make standard and ALITEC-powered solid rocket motors at a touted rate of "thousands per year at much faster lead times than currently available."

“Our focus has been on innovating solid rocket motor development and manufacturing, solving the problems of rocket range and production volumes,” Adranos CEO Chris Stoker said. “With Anduril, we’ll be able to rapidly mature our technology and scale our team and production capabilities to increase our output to thousands of traditional and ALITEC solid rocket motors per year.”

Below is a discussion on the overall defense technology landscape at the Bloomberg Technology Summit held Thursday with Anduril's founder Palmer Luckey and moderated by Bloomberg's Emily Chang.