3… 2… 1… Liftoff!

That’s been the trajectory for Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJRD) the last few weeks. The stock is up roughly 30% since it was announced that NASA’s Cassini probe, which AJRD played a large role in, had entered Saturn’s atmosphere and successfully completed its 20-year mission. Amazing.

The spacecraft was launched in October 1997, and it was largely powered by Aerojet. The company provided one rocket for the first stage, two for the upper stage and the reaction control thrusters that enabled the plunge into the ringed planet’s atmosphere.

It was a long journey – 2.2 billion miles to be exact – and speaking of long journeys, Aerojet has had one to get into the position it finds itself in today.

Aerojet was originally founded in 1915 as General Tire & Rubber Company, which provided tires for Ford Motor’s (F) Model T among other vehicles. It ventured into many areas of ownership – including everything from radio and television studios to hotels and even an airline company – and eventually found its way into the aerospace and defense industry though the purchase of Aerojet Engineering in 1945.

The Aerojet Rocketdyne we have come to know today was born following the acquisition of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne from United Technologies (UTX) in 2013. The company’s name was officially changed to that in 2015, roughly 100 years after its original inception.

Over the years, AJRD has grown into a leader in the aerospace and defense industry, providing propulsion and energetics products to customers around the world. In addition, it’s also a leader in 3-D printing technology.

The timing couldn’t have been better for AJRD to find its core business. And the recent headlines speak to many opportunities in the future, including:

  • Global Space Race (which now includes a bevy of private companies)
  • Tactical Missiles
  • Military Defense
  • Armaments

In the most recent quarter, the company’s aerospace and defense business grew 12.8%, and more important was the fact that its margins surged to 13% from 9.8% just a year earlier. That’s impressive growth and execution.

This is an old company with a new name and a hot mission. Even with the shares up 95% since the start of the year, I fully expect them to keep moving higher.