WASHINGTON — Alliant Techsystems (ATK) announced Jan. 8 that it has agreed to buy Canada?s largest space hardware manufacturer for $1.3 billion.

Daniel Murphy, ATK?s chairman and chief executive officer, said the acquisition of Richmond, British Columbia-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associate?s (MDA) Information Systems and Geospatial Information Services businesses will give ATK world-class capabilities in space-based radar systems and space robotics, among other capabilities. Murphy said the acquisition would also give Minneapolis-based ATK greater access to non-U.S. markets for its goods and services.

ATK intends to combine the MDA businesses it is acquiring with another of its recent space acquisition, Beltsville, Md.-based Swales Aerospace, and establish a new business group, ATK Space Systems. The group will be led by Carl Marchetto, who stepped down in December as head of Orbital Science Corp.?s Space Systems Group.

Murphy expects the addition of the MDA businesses to its Beltsville, Md.-based Swales operations to give the company a serious leg up in the small satellite market, which he sees as a growth area for ATK.

?We at ATK really do believe that we are on a cusp of a change in satellite design, and that?s not to say that big satellites are going to go away, but they will be complemented by more satellites that are smaller and are networked,? Murphy said. ?MDA and Swales together provide us a darn near world-class capability.?

In addition to giving ATK greater access to non-U.S. markets, he said the acquisition also would allow ATK to market MDA?s space-based radar capabilities to U.S. national security customers.

Murphy said ATK Space Systems would be based in Maryland, with the exact location still to be determined.

The acquisition will add more than 1,900 people to ATK?s payrolls and a projected $500 million in additional revenue during the first year.

MDA is the Canadian Space Agency?s prime contractor for its contributions to the international space station and perhaps is best known as the builder of the station?s giant robotic arm.

MDA also worked in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency to build Radarsat 2, which launched in December, and holds the exclusive rights to distribute the satellite?s imagery outside Canada.

ATK is a $4.1 billion company with 17,000 employees. Its main businesses are solid-rocket propulsion, ammunition and advanced materials. The company?s Utah-based Launch Systems Group is the prime contractor for the main stage of NASA?s Ares I crew launch vehicle.