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.”
- 100+ companies are part of Washington’s space cluster, including such well-known companies as Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin, SpaceX and Spaceflight.
- 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.
- More than half of the satellites in low-earth orbit are manufactured in Washington State.
- 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, manufacturing structures for the Boeing Starliner, Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion mission to Mars.
- More than 1,500 aerospace-related companies are located in Washington State, producing everything from nuts and bolts to navigation systems.
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.
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.
- Lower-tier suppliers
Space Trade Shows
Commerce offers businesses the chance to be a co-exhibitor in the Choose Washington exhibits space at international trade shows. Find out more here.
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
- Washington Aerospace Research & Training Center
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.
Altek: Manufacturing essential parts and components for rockets and satellites.
Arka: Multi-layer solutions to current and future space threats, advanced mission planning and management, space situational awareness capabilities, proximity operations enabled by robotic servicing, and innovative hardware and software solutions
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 rocket 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.
Hi-Rel Labs: NASA supplier that conducts failure analysis, destructive physical analysis, material analysis, and SEM for commercial, aerospace, and defense.
Janicki Industries: Manufactures production tooling and fly-away parts for spacecraft, including the Lower Pressure Dome of the Boeing Starliner.
Karmen: Manufactures separation and deployment systems for spacecraft.
Kymeta: Manufactures satellite antennas and communications technologies.
LeoStella: Specialized satellite design and manufacturing.
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: 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.
STOKE Space Technologies: On-demand 100% reusable systems that can access space at any orbit for lower cost through reusability and extensibility.
- 100,000+ employed in aerospace-related occupations.
- Washington State consistently ranks near the top location in talent, recently coming in at 2nd in Higher Education according to U.S. News & World Report.
- According to the National Science Foundation, Washington ranks 3rd in STEM workforce as a percentage of the total workforce.
- Washington is home to 30 public and private universities and 34 community and technical colleges, 13 of which offer four-year degrees.
- Three of the state’s largest universities – University of Washington, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University – offer more than 40 research programs, institutes, centers and labs focused on cutting-edge technologies, ranging from advanced materials and alternative fuels to next-generation propulsion systems.
- The Space Policy and Research Center at the University of Washington is an interdisciplinary hub of faculty, researchers, policymakers, organizations and facilities operating at the intersection of technology, science, and policy.
Launch your business in Washington.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact one of our team experts listed at the top of the page.
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