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Sen. Cantwell: ‘Tremendously important’ to invest in state’s space economy

The launch of a Blue Origin rocket. (Blue Origin via AP)

Sen. Maria Cantwell spoke out Wednesday to stress the need for Washington state to continue investing in outer space.

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“The space economy to the state of Washington is tremendously important,” she said in a news release.

Cantwell warned that missions to remedy congestion from satellites in orbit are currently underfunded, increasing the threat of orbital debris, and damage from near-Earth asteroids.

She advocated for the United States to continue to be “an aggressive and competitive leader in the space sector.”

“Mark me down as somebody who wants to be more aggressive in this space — we’re not staying ahead,” she said. “I don’t know that we’re hearing about European space forecasts, but we’re definitely hearing about European weather forecasts that … become the standard above ours.”

The European weather forecasting model is widely viewed as more powerful and accurate than the one used in the U.S.

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Here in Washington, a 2018 report from the Puget Sound Regional Concert recently described the state as “positioned to lead commercial space exploration and development.”

While the industry appears healthy in the Northwest so far, the report also noted that the need for skills and talent in the region will continue to grow, especially for fields involving science, technology, engineering, and math. The region already boasts a bevy of aerospace companies and technology talent, but the report argues that schools will need to ramp up programs in these fields if locals are to participate in the evolving industry.

Sen. Cantwell echoed this idea Wednesday, pointing to a collection of Washington-based companies as leaders in the state’s developing space economy.

“It’s a $1.8 billion economy, and with companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, thousands of jobs are dependent on how the country continues to move forward in this area,” Cantwell said.

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