Business & Real Estate

Aerojet Rocketdyne president steps down; GenCorp CEO takes job again

An unmanned rocket explodes shortly after takeoff Oct. 28 at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket engine had been modified by Rancho Cordova-based Aerojet Rocketdyne.
An unmanned rocket explodes shortly after takeoff Oct. 28 at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket engine had been modified by Rancho Cordova-based Aerojet Rocketdyne. Eastern Shore News

Aerojet Rocketdyne President Warren Boley Jr. stepped down Friday, less than four months after an unmanned NASA rocket with Aerojet Rocketdyne-modified engines exploded in Virginia.

Scott Seymour, CEO of GenCorp Inc., parent of the Rancho Cordova-based rocket engine manufacturer, will take over Boley’s post.

Company spokesman Glenn Mahone confirmed the changes in an email, noting that Seymour “re-assumed the presidency which he held from 2010-2012. He will serve in both roles.”

No specifics on the reasons for Boley’s departure were released by either GenCorp or Aerojet Rocketdyne. An online report by Reuters, citing unnamed sources, said that “Boley and Seymour had had differences about the company’s future.”

The Oct. 28 explosion of a cargo ship headed for the International Space Station added scrutiny to the company. Investigators examining the explosion quickly focused on Russian-made, 1960s-era rocket engines that were modified and supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

No one was injured in the highly publicized incident, although the launch site, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s eastern shore, was damaged.

Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp. quickly distanced itself from the Aerojet-modified engines and announced that it would accelerate a planned upgrade of a new propulsion system for its Antares cargo ships.

Positive news for Aerojet Rocketdyne came in early December as it played a key role in the successful launch of NASA’s Orion spaceship. The unmanned flight from Cape Canaveral, Fla., was to test systems that will ultimately take astronauts farther into space, including to Mars and near-Earth asteroids.

Aerojet sites, including Rancho Cordova, provided propulsion systems for the Orion spaceship and the crew module. The latter will hold astronauts during flight and re-entry to Earth once manned missions are attempted in the 2020s.

Earlier this month, Aerojet Rocketdyne announced it had a new contract with Orion Sciences for electric propulsion systems for communication satellites.

Boley was appointed Aerojet’s president in July 2012, succeeding Seymour. A year later, when GenCorp finalized its $550 million purchase of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne from United Technologies Corp., Boley was named president of the combined company.

As Aerojet Rocketdyne’s chief, he took on a combined, larger company and was responsible for overseeing about 5,300 employees.

Last month, GenCorp reported a fourth-quarter profit of $10.1 million, compared with a loss of $3.7 million in the last quarter of 2013. However, revenue dropped to $439.6 million from $485.3 million. GenCorp blamed the revenue decline on lower sales in three significant contracts with NASA and the military.

For all of 2014, the company reported a $53 million loss. That compared to profits of $167.9 million a year earlier. Revenue grew to $1.60 billion from $1.38 billion. The company said the higher revenue was due primarily to the inclusion of a full year’s worth of sales from Aerojet Rocketdyne.

On Friday, GenCorp stock closed at $18.91, up 11 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange. Boley’s departure was reported after the markets closed.

Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.