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Ball Corporation’s (BLL - Analyst Report) subsidiary Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. has been chosen by B612 Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to build a space telescope that will scan the solar system for asteroids posing a threat to Earth as well as build  a satellite to transport it.

The telescope, known as the Sentinel, will cost several hundred million dollars and is backed by the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to protect the planet from an asteroid strike. This will be the first privately launched and operated deep-space mission. The project is slated for launch in 2017. It would be operated by the Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Ball Aerospace has been designing the Sentinel since 2004. It was originally planned as a telescope that NASA would fund. The Sentinel is designed to catalog the location and trajectory of asteroids crossing Earth’s orbit over a five and half year mission, scanning space from a distance of 170 million miles from Earth in an orbit similar to Venus.

It will also create the most detailed map of the solar system to date between the Earth and Sun. The Sentinel should able to detect 90% of the asteroids which are least 460 feet in diameter or larger, and about 50% of asteroids which are 130 feet in diameter.

Ball's aerospace and technologies segment includes national defense hardware; antenna and video component technologies; civil and operational space hardware; and systems engineering services. The segment develops spacecraft, sensors and instruments, radio frequency systems and other advanced technologies for the civil, commercial and national security aerospace markets.

The majority of the aerospace and technologies businesses work under contracts, generally from one to five years in duration for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other U.S. government agencies. Contracts funded by the various agencies of the federal government represented 87% of segment sales in 2011.
 
Aerospace & technologies contributed 9% to Ball Corporation’s revenues in 2011. The segment reported revenues of $785 million, improving 10% year over year. During the first quarter of 2012, Aerospace and technologies reported sales of $201.6, up 5% from $191.2 million in 2011. Backlog at the end of the quarter was $855.8 million. Strong program performance from 2011 continued into 2012.

Ball Corporation is a supplier of high quality packaging for beverage, food and household products customers, and of aerospace and other technologies and services, primarily for the U.S. government. It competes with Alcoa, Inc. (AA - Analyst Report) and Rexam plc (REXMY). The stock retains a quantitative Zacks #3 Rank (short-term Hold rating) over the near term.

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