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Seattle is too far north to be a good launch site, but it is rapidly becoming a major production site for the manufacture of satellites. Roger Myers is a longtime aerospace executive who is currently president-elect of the Washington State Academy of Sciences. At a Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s Economic Leadership Forum last Monday, he said, “How many of you know that Washington state is actually one of the world’s leading satellite manufacturers?”
Colorado-based Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s satellite operations in California have the lead in satellite production in terms of mass and revenue. However, in terms of the number of satellites launched in the past few years, the SpaceX satellite development and manufacturing facility is very close to its big rivals.
Last week, SpaceX launched another sixty satellites to expand its Starlink broadband constellation. Counting two prototype launches and the launch of the first sixty satellites for Starlink, the total is one hundred and twelve in the past year.
LeoStella has a factory in Tukwila, a community just south of Seattle. Four of their Global satellites are already in orbit as part of the BlackSky’s Earth observation constellation. LeoStella is scheduled to construct another dozen of the Global satellites.
Amazon has plans to construct and launch thousands of satellites for their Project Kuiper broadband mega-constellation. Most of the jobs associated with Project Kuiper are in Bellevue Washington, a city near Seattle.
Part of the reason that Washington State has attracted so much attention from the growing private space industry involves the decreasing cost of the hardware that goes into satellites. Commercial electronics has become steadily smaller, cheaper and more powerful over the past several decades. Meyers said, “What that did is, it reduced the barriers to entry, and it enabled the creation of a much broader sector around the world.”
Software development also has a lot to do with the popularity of Seattle for the space industry. The presence of Microsoft, Amazon and many spin-off businesses in the Greater Seattle area has made the region a global center for data analytics, machine learning, cloud computing and many other technologies that have applications in space industries. That is a major reason why SpaceX located its satellite development center in Redmond, Washington instead of near its home base in Southern California, a preferred location for a lot of private space companies.
Elon Musk is the CEO of SpaceX. When he announced the move of SpaceX satellite development to the Seattle area in 2015, he said, “There’s a huge amount of talent in the Seattle area, and a lot of you guys, it seems, don’t want to move to LA.”
Another major factor in Seattle’s attraction to space industries involves the decades of aerospace activity in the region. Boeing has been building airplanes in the Greater Seattle area for a hundred years. Aerojet Rocketdyne has been doing research into rocket science in Redmond, Washington for fifty years. Aerojet Rocketdyne can trace its origins to the Rocket Research Corporation which was founded by former Boeing engineers in Seattle in 1959 and was moved to Redmond, Washington in 1968.
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The Greater Seattle Area Is A Major Center Of Satellite Production - Part 1 of 2 Parts
Part 1 of 2 Parts