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.”
- More than three dozen space-related companies are part of Washington’s space cluster, including such well-known companies as Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin, SpaceX, Spaceflight Industries and Tethers Unlimited.
- The industry employs 13,000+ workers and generates $4.6 billion in economic activity in Washington communities.
- Commercial space generates nearly $80 million in state taxes and an annual payroll of $1.6 billion.
- 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 Orion, Boeing Starliner and SpaceX Starship spacecraft and Systima Technologies, which produces Orion’s forward bay cover.
- More than 1,300 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 budget 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 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 prototypes of the new BE-4 rocket motors that will power the company’s New Glenn rocket as well as United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch system. At Aerojet-Rocketdyne, 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, 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 Joint Apprenticeship Committee
- Washington Aerospace Research & Training Center
Sector supply chain and production are focused on five areas:
- Lower-tier suppliers
Lower-tier suppliers produce the constituent materials and parts for spacecraft, satellites, and launch vehicles. This tier includes metal and plastics manufacturers, machine shops, instrument manufacturers and electronics producers.
- Upper-tier suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)
Includes businesses that develop major assemblies and systems for these space-related projects, including communications, power, engine and structural systems. OEMs provide the final development and assembly of spacecraft, satellites, and launch vehicles.
- Space launch service providers
Businesses and organizations that manage the launches of spacecraft and satellites into space are critical to the space economy. This includes not only the launch facilities themselves, but also the coordination of spaceflights, mission management, ground support of spacecraft, and ongoing operations of satellites. Increasingly, the U.S. government has been handing these responsibilities off to the private sector.
- Providers of space-related goods and services
These are companies that benefit and use the goods and services provided by the activities above, including telecommunications, Earth observation and mapping systems, research activities, space tourism, defense applications and other space-dependent applications.
- Businesses supported by space activities
These companies rely on space-related platforms to add and improve functionality and enhance the quality of TV and radio services, weather forecasting, asset tracking systems and personal wayfinding systems.
Aerojet Rocketdyne: Over the last 50 years the company has produced more than 19,000 thrusters in Washington, and boasts a 100% success rate. Their Redmond facility manufactures 200 to 500 thrusters a year, from tiny rockets to keep satellites properly positioned to ones rated at 600 pounds of thrust or more.
BlackSky: Provides an easy, affordable way to observe, analyze and act on timely and relevant insights using high-quality satellite images from multiple sources, combined with a diverse set of real-time sensor data such as news feeds, social media and radio communications.
Blue Origin: Performs engineering, design and production of rockets motors, the reusable New Shepard spacecraft and systems for its New Glenn rocket and Moon Lander.
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.
Crane Aerospace & Electronics: Sensing systems, fluid management, landing gear systems and cabin 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 Lower Pressure Dome of the Boeing Starliner.
Kymeta: Manufactures satellite antennas and communications technologies.
MSNW: Manufactures new space propulsion technology.
Off Planet Research: Research facility that simulates extra-terrestrial environments to test space systems to further research and development of cost-effective, safe and effective space-based technologies.
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. The company is also building a new manufacturing facility near Seattle to produce satellites.
SpaceX: Engineering and production of the company’s constellation of Starlink broadband satellites.
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.
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.
To learn more, contact our mainline at (206) 256-6100 if you have a general query or email us at email@example.com. Or contact one of our team members below.
Space Sector Team
Robin Toth, Director of Economic Development, Aerospace Sector – Phone: (206) 256-6103
Daniel Tappana, Aerospace Business Development Manager – (206) 256-6116
Amandine Crabtree, Aerospace International Trade Specialist – (206) 256-6137