How Washington State Scores in NASA’s Economic Report

The marquee of Blue Origin’s headquarters in Kent, Washington, shines on a rainy morning. (GeekWire Photo/Alan Boyle)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space company tops the list of Washington state contractors for NASA in a newly released analysis of the agency’s economic impact.

The analysis came out today as NASA released data showing how many jobs and procurement dollars were created during fiscal year 2021 in each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. NASA said this is the first time it has produced state-specific fact sheets to supplement its Economic Impact Report.

“With the president’s FY 2024 budget announcement this week, NASA will remain an economic engine that supports good-paying American jobs, supports American innovation, and strengthens American competitiveness in the 21st century,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a press release. “Our impressive financial impact just scratches the surface of the agency’s influence around the world and makes it clear that what’s good for NASA is good for communities across the country.”

Nationally, NASA supported more than 339,600 jobs in fiscal year 2021 (which ran from October 2020 to the end of September 2021), based on a multiplier representing direct and indirect economic impacts. The space agency said its operations generated more than $71.2 billion in economic output during the fiscal year. Washington state accounted for 4,622 of the jobs resulting from NASA’s economic impact, $1.06 billion in economic output, and $426.6 million in NASA procurement.

This NASA infographic summarizes the financial impact of the state agency on Washington state in fiscal year 2021. Click on the graphic for a larger version.

NASA figures showed that more than half of the FY2021 procurement directed to Washington state β€” $275,900,431 β€” went to Blue Origin, based in Kent, Washington. Blue Origin with funding for lunar lander development efforts, suborbital research projects and other space studies.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s business in Redmond, Washington was No. 2 on NASA’s list for Washington state, with $15,744,742 in procurement. Aerojet’s Redmond team builds thrusters for a wide range of NASA spacecraft, ranging from the Artemis moon program’s Orion capsule and SLS rocket to the 2021 Mars rover Perseverance.

Washington state’s top five was rounded out by Everett-based MagniX ($5.43 million in fees), which receives support from NASA to demonstrate electric aviation technologies. Vancouver-based nLight Photonics ($1.03 million), which provides high-power laser systems for use by NASA. and Seattle-based Northwest Research Associates ($772,491), which focuses on sensor systems.

Speaking of research, the University of Washington led NASA’s list of education funding at Washington state institutions, with $19.19 million in funding. Washington State University, Western Washington University and Northwest Indian College also received training funding from the agency.

Although only 19 federal NASA jobs were reported as being based in Washington, the state ranked seventh in the nation in procurement by state for FY2021 and 10th in the number of direct and indirect jobs supported.

NASA isn’t the only entity with an economic impact on Washington state’s space industry, said Stan Shull, founder of a Bellevue, Wash.-based consulting firm for space and software companies called Alliance Velocity. In an email to GeekWire, Shull pointed to satellite businesses set up in the Seattle area by SpaceX, Amazon and LeoStella, as well as private funding going to companies like Blue Origin and Spaceflight Inc.

“While NASA funding and some national security contracts in Washington state have been valuable to the region, the region’s space ecosystem is largely homegrown and uniquely entrepreneurial,” Shull said. “We just don’t have the significant federal space or defense presence that places like Houston, Los Angeles, Colorado or Florida have.”

Despite those shortcomings, the Seattle area’s space economy has supported dozens of space companies, employing thousands of people and generating billions of dollars in economic impact annually, Shull said.

“It also has amazing range,” he added. β€œIt encompasses the entire end-to-end space and satellite value chain, from component manufacturing to satellites to rockets to space infrastructure and space communications and data services. While we may not be the largest space nation, our modest but powerful space ecosystem could become a global space power in the future.”

For what it’s worth, California was the state with the most FY2021 NASA procurement ($4.5 billion) and the most jobs supported by NASA-related activities (66,236, including jobs created by indirect economic effects). The Golden State is home to three NASA centers: the Ames Research Center, the Armstrong Flight Research Center, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Maryland, home of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, accounted for the most federal NASA jobs (3,128, compared to 1,812 such jobs in California).

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