WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin Space Systems reported an increase in profit in its fiscal first quarter April 25 thanks in part to an increase in earnings from its stake in United Launch Alliance, but company officials cautioned that it expected ULA’s contributions to decline later this year.

The Space Systems division of the defense and aerospace giant reported an operating income of $288 million for the first quarter of 2017, an increase of $44 million over the same quarter of 2016. Net sales for the quarter were $2.36 billion, up from $2.13 billion in the same quarter if 2016.

The bulk of that increase was due to increased earnings from its 50 percent stake in ULA, the launch vehicle joint venture it shares with Boeing. The company said total equity earnings for the Space Systems division, which primarily comes from ULA, were $80 million in the quarter, compared to $50 million in the same quarter of 2016.

Company officials, though, aren’t expecting the increase in income from its ULA stake to continue. “You should think of that as a phasing in the year,” said Bruce Tanner, executive vice president and chief financial officer, of the increase in ULA earnings in the quarter during a call with analysts April 25.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems reported $325 million in equity earnings, again primarily from ULA, for all of 2016, according to the company’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. While the $80 million reported for the first quarter would put the company on a path for a similar total for 2017, Tanner said he expects a lower total for the full year.

“We’re still expecting that ULA will be about two-thirds or so” of the earnings generated in 2016, or about $240 million, for 2017, he said. That would be similar to the $245 million in equity earnings the division reported in 2015, according to its SEC filings.

“It just so happens that the first quarter was disproportionately higher,” he explained. “We would expect that to come back down.”

However, Tanner also said in the call that the company was increasing its operating profit outlook for all of 2017 for Space Systems by $25 million, to $965–995 million. That increase, he said, was due primarily to increased equity income from ULA.

The sales outlook for the division also increased by $100 million for the full year, to $8.85–9.15 billion, which he attributed to the “improved outlook” for the division for the rest of the year, without identifying specific programs likely to generate that increase. The company’s other major divisions did not change their sales projections for the year.

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...