The following is an article I wrote for Greater Seattle Partners.
Today, NASA and SpaceX are preparing for an historic space launch that demonstrates the power of public and private partnerships. Two Americans will board the Falcon 9, Crew Dragon commercial spacecraft and visit the International Space Station (ISS) – a feat not done with humans aboard in 9 years. What has led us to this place in time is based on a stunning amount of innovation and collaboration.
We have come a long way in 60+ years. NASA’s foresight and willingness to embrace the commercialization of space is lowering costs and allowing a much broader range of companies to develop spacecraft and satellites. The supply chains are big and complex. An enormous array of products and solutions must be developed before that rocket and capsule get wheeled out to the launch pad.
As listed in the Puget Sound Regional Council report on the “Washington State Space Economy,” those market segments include everything from Spacecraft & Launch Vehicles – Propulsion Systems & Fuels – Navigation & Control – Computer Hardware, Software & Robotics – and much more.
Companies Changing the Landscape
The Greater Seattle region has long been at the forefront of these market segments. Boeing began building the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) at its Kent, Wash., facility in 1969. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Redmond-based facility produces 200-500 thrusters a year and has long supplied NASA with rocket engines for their most important missions. Other notable space companies that call our region home are:
- Blue Origin
- Planetary Resources
- Spaceflight Industries
- Stratolaunch Systems Corporation
- RBC Signals
Well, we of course all know this is a great place to live. But we are also #2 in the nation for aerospace engineers. In case you haven’t heard, Incredible Works Here. Investments in education and workforce training have been crucial:
- The UW Aerospace Research Consortium (UW-ARC) supports close coordination with industry to provide for collaborative research and education opportunities, and support the commercialization of space technology developed at the university.
- The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Washington Seattle provides bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees as well as certificate and continuing education courses, and has been at the forefront of research in aerospace for decades.
- Centers at Washington State University have coordinated several research projects with NASA in multiple departments, ranging from engineering and chemistry to astrobiology.
- The Center of Excellence in Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing is located at Everett Community College in Snohomish County, and has coordinated grants for regional and statewide workforce development in areas related to manufacturing and aerospace.
- The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) was created in 2008 to provide apprenticeship opportunities in aerospace and advanced manufacturing production.
Flying in to the Future
There is no doubt that space flight, and competing in space markets, is fraught with risk. But the Greater Seattle region has always risen to the occasion. In fact, our area is emerging as a “Global Hub for the Dawning Satellite Age.” With regional employment in the aerospace industry estimated at 88,000 jobs, and a huge tech community that also gave birth to the world’s two largest cloud computing companies (Amazon + Microsoft), Greater Seattle will continue to be at the forefront of technological advances in the space industry.