Aerojet Rocketdyne reported a profit for both the fourth quarter of 2016 and the entire year.

The company reported net income of $18.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared to $7.7 million in the same quarter of 2015.

For all of 2016, the company said it had net income of $18 million versus a loss of $16.2 million in 2015.

The company said growth in sales for 2016 was linked to increased activity in space launch and missile programs. [Aerojet Rocketdyne]

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An Atlas 5 successfully launched a classified satellite Wednesday. The Atlas 5 401 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 12:50 p.m. Eastern on the NROL-79 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO did not disclose the nature of the payload, although outside observers believe it to be a pair of ship-tracking satellites. The launch is the first of three planned by United Launch Alliance this month. [SpaceNews]

Virgin Galactic is spinning off its smallsat launch project into a new company, led by a former Boeing executive. Virgin Orbit will take over work on LauncherOne, the air-launch system Virgin Galactic has been developing for the last several years. Dan Hart, the former vice president for government satellite programs at Boeing, where he worked for 34 years, will be president of Virgin Orbit. The company says it’s on track for a first test launch of LauncherOne by the end of this year. [SpaceNews]

The nominee to be the next Director of National Intelligence says the U.S. needs to accelerate development of key satellite programs. Testifying at a Senate confirmation hearing this week, former Sen. Dan Coats said it was “of the utmost necessity” that satellite procurement and launch efforts for national security be streamlined. He also said the U.S. cannot be “behind the curve in terms of development of both the offensive and defensive capacities” in space. [SpaceNews]

SES is looking to turn around its enterprise connectivity business with more deals like one it signed with Facebook. The satellite operator’s enterprise division suffered a 13 percent loss in sales in 2016, even as the rest of the company reported increased revenue. SES President and CEO Karim Sabbagh said the company will focus on so-called “Tier 1” customers like Facebook, which signed a deal with SES last year, who have more comprehensive, and more lucrative, satellite networking needs.[SpaceNews]

China’s first lunar sample return mission is being readied for a November launch. The Chang’e-5 spacecraft will be delivered to the Wenchang launch site in August in preparation for a launch in November on a Long March 5. The mission will land a spacecraft on the moon to collect up to two kilograms of samples for return to Earth. That mission will start a new phase of China’s lunar exploration program, which includes a lander mission to the moon’s far side in 2018 and later missions to the lunar poles. [gbtimes]

A former particle physicist is the new head of the UK Space Agency. Graham Turnock earned a doctorate in particle physics from Cambridge University for research done at CERN, and has worked in several roles in the European Commission and the British government. Since 2011, he had been chief executive of the Better Regulation Executive, a unit within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Turnock takes over on April 1, succeeding interim chief executive Katherine Courtney. [UK Space Agency]

Dynetics is planning to develop a test facility near a United Launch Alliance plant in Alabama. The plant, located on ULA property adjacent to its factory in Decatur, will be used for testing launch vehicles and large aerospace structures. A city board approved a tax abatement for the project Wednesday, although some local officials expressed concern that it could be seen as a cut in education taxes, prohibited by state law. [Decatur (Ala.) Daily]

A German project has selected six finalists in a competition to be the first German woman in space.The six finalists in the “Die Astronautin” competition include a combat pilot, astrophysicist and aerospace technician. The winner could fly as a commercial spaceflight participant to the International Space Station in 2020, but the project has yet to raise the money needed to buy a seat on a Soyuz or other flight to the station. [Deutsche Welle]

NASA is sending IceCube to space. No, not him. IceCube is a 3U cubesat that will fly to the ISS on a Cygnus cargo spacecraft later this month to be later deployed from the station. The satellite, the first cubesat developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, carries a radiometer to measure cloud ice levels. The mission is primarily intended to flight-test the radiometer for use on future missions. [NASA/GSFC]

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...