A bold vision for space exploration.
Washington State has played a central role in space exploration for nearly 60 years. Anchored by pioneers such as Boeing and Aerojet, the state has drawn a new generation of visionaries who are redefining space exploration, from harvesting asteroids and ferrying tourists to the outer reaches of inner space to systems that are taking us to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
- The state’s unique mix of established and newer companies led Forbes magazine to dub Washington “The Silicon Valley for Space.”
- Nearly three dozen space-related companies are part of Washington’s space cluster, including such well-known companies as Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin, Planetary Resources, SpaceX, Spaceflight Industries and Vulcan Aerospace.
- Groundbreaking research and development is driven by two world-class universities, a national research laboratory and private sector R&D teams.
- Nearly a dozen educational, non-profit and science-related institutions are dedicated entirely to space exploration.
- Two dozen companies are NASA suppliers, including Janicki Industries, which supplies structures for the planned Orion and Boeing Starliner manned spacecraft and Systima Technologies, which produces Orion’s forward bay cover.
- More than 1,400 aerospace-related companies are located in Washington State, producing everything from nuts and bolts to navigation systems.
An In-depth look.
Washington’s leadership in commercialized space stems from its long history in aerospace combined with a deep pool of top talent in software, hardware, advanced materials and telecommunications. As the federal space budgets continued to experience cuts, Washington businesses stepped in to explore new opportunities based on broadband satellite constellations, value-added services and human space exploration. New companies such as Blue Origin, Spaceflight Industries, Planetary Resources and Vulcan Aerospace have continued to build on the region’s pioneer role in space exploration.
This pioneering work included the design and manufacture of the lunar rovers by Boeing in the 1970s and the Inertial Upper Stage, which sent the Magellan, Galileo and Ulysses probes on their respective missions. Aerojet has provided rocket engines for all of NASA’s most important missions, from the maneuvering jets on Voyager to the rockets that allowed Curiosity to touch down safely on the Martian surface.
This rich history of innovation has provided Washington with a deep pool of engineering and manufacturing talent that is not only experienced in aerospace, software, hardware, propulsion, composites, big data and telecommunications as well.
Though the state’s geographic location makes it unsuitable as a launch site, this hasn’t stopped Washington companies from creating the next generation of space vehicles and systems. South of Seattle, Blue Origin is developing the prototypes of the BE-4 rocket motors that will power its New Glenn rocket as well as United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch system. At Aerojet, workers are exploring new propulsion systems such as resistojets, gridded-ion thrusters and rockets powered by hydroxyl ammonium nitrate, which is safer and more efficient than traditional fuels.
The increased emphasis on value-added services and telecommunications has allowed companies like Spaceflight Industries to create new ventures such as BlackSky Global, which provides high-resolution, near real-time imagery to customers. Miniaturization and commoditization continue to drive down costs and increase opportunities across the board for entrepreneurs and companies that want to explore the bleeding edge of commercial space exploration.
Workforce Training Resources
- Washington Aerospace & Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Pipeline Advisory Committee
- Center of Excellence for Aerospace & Advanced Materials Manufacturing
- University of Washington’s William E. Boeing Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
- Aerospace Curriculum Alignment Team (ACAT)
- Aerospace JointApprenticeship Committee
- Air Washington
- Washington Aerospace Research & Training Center
Aerojet Rocketdyne: Produces 200 to 500 rocket engines a year at their Redmond, Washington facility, from tiny rockets to keep satellites properly positioned to ones rated at 600 pounds of thrust or more.
Blue Origin: Performs engineering, design and production of rockets motors, the reusable New Shepard spacecraft and related systems.
Boeing: Provides Broadband SatCom Network operations, administration and management duties to global ground stations and design support for the Starliner crew capsule.
Carlisle Interconnect Technologies: Manufactures TVS, EMI, Filter, and RF/Microwave connectors for space and satellite applications.
Cobalt Enterprises: Builds satellite components.
Electroimpact: Manufactures all forms of satellite fixtures, containers, trailers and tooling.
Helion Energy: Developing a magneto-inertial fusion technology for propulsion.
Janicki Industries: Manufactures production tooling and fly-away parts for spacecraft, including the Boeing Starliner’s Lower Pressure Dome.
Kymeta: Manufactures satellite antennas.
MSNW: Manufactures new space propulsion technology.
Planetary Resources: Created an earth-observation that uses infrared and hyperspectral sensors to help planet’s natural resources and is working on technologies to explore and mine asteroids.
RBC Signals: Provides real-time space communications technologies and services for satellite operators.
Spaceflight Industries: Provides launch services, mission management, and connectivity for small satellite missions or constellations ranging from 1 kg up to 300 kg in payload.
SpaceX: Provides engineering for the company’s constellation of broadband satellites.Systima
Systima Technologies: Manufactures separation and deployment systems for spacecraft.
Tethers Unlimited: Designs and manufactures power, propulsion, actuation and communications systems for small satellites, robotic technologies for on-orbit fabrication and assembly, software defined radio communications, and 3D printed radiation shielding.
Vulcan Aerospace: Developing an air launch system capable of transporting payloads to low earth orbit using a carrier aircraft as a mobile launch vehicle.
Join our legendary space cluster.
Washington is at the leading edge of the revolution in commercial space exploration. Join our space cluster and work with some of the brightest people and most imaginative companies on the earth (or any other planet). Our team of experts will be happy to explore opportunities with you, connect you to potential partners and customers and help you set up shop, whether you’re a major industry player or a two-person startup.
Phone: (206) 256-6100
Space Sector Team
John Thornquist, Director, Office of Aerospace – Phone: (206) 256-6103
Isabelle DeWulf, Aerospace Business Development Manager, International Trade Team – Phone: (206) 256-6143