Seattle’s burgeoning space industry

Following the NewSpace 2016 conference held in Seattle in June, the city is increasingly being recognized as a hub of space innovation.  

As the birthplace of Boeing, Seattle—and the wider Pacific Northwest—is already renowned worldwide for its aerospace industry. But it’s not just the “aero” part of aerospace in which Seattle excels. Seattle is also home to a growing space industry and recently served as host of the NewSpace 2016 conference. It was the first time the annual conference was held outside of Silicon Valley, and organizers now plan to host it in Seattle every two years.

The greater Seattle area is home to companies considered by many to represent the future of astronautics. From Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace to future asteroid-miners Planetary Resources, some of the most buzzed-about space enterprises call Western Washington home. 

Why Seattle?

For space entrepreneurs, Seattle has an ideal blend of engineering talent, university research facilities, aerospace capabilities and, importantly, local tech billionaires.

In a recent New York Times article, Joe Landon, chairmen of an angel investment firm for space start-ups, called Seattle “a powerhouse on both the software and hardware side.”


NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, fourth from left meets Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos next to Blue Origin's crew capsule along with other Blue Origin team members at the company's headquarters in Kent, WA. 

Image by Bill Ingalls via Wikimedia Commons


Key players

Vulcan Aerospace – Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s company dedicated to making commercial space travel more accessible and less expensive. Its central project has been the Stratolaunch, a massive plane designed to carry rockets into space. Vulcan Aerospace is based in Seattle and was launched in 2015. 

Planetary Resources – A company dedicated to mining asteroids for minerals, volatiles and precious metals. This includes developing satellites that survey near-Earth asteroids, as well as a robotic mining process to extract the desired materials. Planetary Resources is based in Redmond, WA and was launched in 2010.  

Blue Origin – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ aerospace manufacturing and spaceflight services company. Its central project is the New Shepard system, a “fully reusable, vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) space vehicle.” Blue Origin was founded in 2000 and is based in Kent, WA. 

Spaceflight Industries – A satellite company working on ways to make retrieving images from space easier, cheaper and faster. One of the ways it's achieving this is by arranging “ride shares” for satellites, allowing small satellites to jump aboard larger space voyages. Spaceflight Industries is based in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle and was launched in 2010. 

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