Alliant Techsystems Inc. said that cutbacks on spending by NASA and on military ammunitions caused second-quarter sales to fall 8.3 percent to $1.1 billion.

The company's earnings were down, falling almost 18 percent to $80 million, or $2.43 per share, in its fiscal second quarter, compared with earnings of $97 million, or $2.91 per share during the same quarter last year.

The company's earnings beat analysts' expectations, according to Thomson First Call.

Alliant recently moved its headquarters to Arlington, Va., but still has about 2,700 employees in the Twin Cities, including about 200 at its former headquarters in Eden Prairie.

The company affirmed its full-year earnings expectations to be in the range of $8.50 to $9 per share, but narrowed sales expectations for fiscal year 2012 to between $4.6 billion and $4.7 billion from earlier guidance of $4.6 billion to $4.8 billion.

Sales were up in two of the company's four divisions. Missile products sales were up 6.5 percent while sales rose 7.8 percent in security and sporting. Sales were down the most in its armament systems division, falling nearly 20 percent for a decline of almost $85 million compared with last year.

Specifically, the company saw softer sales in NASA human spaceflight programs, military small-caliber ammunition and energetics programs.

The company's chief executive, Mark DeYoung, was optimistic that a diversity of products and long-term development strategies will help the company weather continuing economic challenges facing the industry. In a statement, he said, "We are executing a strategy to improve profitability, maintain our leading market positions, and bring our development programs into production. We will also continue growing our presence in the commercial and international markets, making strategic investments to strengthen our portfolio, improving our competitive position, and delivering shareholder value."

On Wednesday, the company announced that it had received a $24 million contract modification to a 30-month, $66 million deal it had signed with the U.S. Army to provide additional ammunition, hardware, test and analysis support for the Army's Individual Semi-Automatic Airburst System.

Second-quarter sales and profit included a pretax benefit of approximately $18 million from settlement of a contract resolution. The company also benefited from a settlement of IRS audits of the company's 2007 and 2008 tax returns.

Alliant stock closed at $63.09, up 11 percent, or $6.30 per share.

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376