Washington State’s Space Economy More Than Doubled

SAN FRANCISCO – Washington State’s space economy is booming.

Between 2018 and 2021, the state long associated with aviation thanks to Boeing noted a 61% jump in economic activity related to the space sector, according to a report published on February 22 by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

In 2021, Washington’s space economy generated $4.6 billion compared to $1.8 billion in 2018. Space-related jobs, meanwhile, increased from 6,221 to 13,103.

“While the development of launch vehicles and related activities by Blue Origin has been a source of growth, the advancement of satellite manufacturing and satellite-related services” by SpaceX’s Starlink, Amazon’s Project Kuiper and LeoStella” has also been a major source of new regional employment,” according to “The Space Economy of Washington State: 2022 Update.”

Washington is home to Blue Origin, an Aerojet Rocketdyne engine factory, and smaller companies like BlackSky, Kymeta, RBC Signals, Spaceflight Inc., Starfish Space, Stoke Space Technologies, Tethers Unlimited and Xplore.

“Washington is poised to become a major global space hub,” said Stan Shull, director of consulting firm Alliance Velocity.

In fact, 38% of the 4,852 operational satellites in orbit on Jan. 1 were produced in Washington state, Shull noted in a LinkedIn post on Feb. 22. SpaceX manufactures Starlink broadband satellites in Redmond. LeoStella, a joint venture of Thales Alena Space and Spaceflight Inc., builds satellites in Tukwila.

Without major NASA or military space facilities, Washington “from a space perspective is uniquely entrepreneurial,” said Sean McClinton, director of business operations at RBC Signals and founder of Space Entrepreneurs, a group of nearly 1,000 members. based in Seattle. “That’s where I see the real potential.”

To keep the state’s space economy growing, the Puget Sound Regional Council suggests the region focus on entrepreneurship, workforce development, and venture capital.

Already, there are more vacancies than space sector employees available to fill them. As a result, space companies recruit from software and aviation companies as well as local schools.

The University of Washington takes a multidisciplinary approach to space-related research, education, training, and outreach. Only by breaking down academic silos can the university create a digital space hub that brings together researchers, policymakers, and organizations focused on science, technology, engineering, law, and policy related to space, said Saadia Pekkanen, co-founder and director of the University of Washington Center for Space Policy and Research.