SEATTLE -- The Space Frontier Foundation had nearly 700 people register for its NewSpace 2016 conference held at Seattle's downtown Motif Hotel.

That's a record for the Virginia based nonprofit that promotes space and holds events around the country.

Yet that number may not come as a surprise as Washington State among the largest, perhaps the second largest center for private space companies in the U.S. after the San Francisco bay area.

Sponsors include Paul Allen's Vulcan Aerospace, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Spaceflight Industries, Planetary Resources, Aerojet Rocketdyne, among the companies based in or that originated in Washington State.

Direct space related employment is now roughly estimated in the thousands, says John Thornquist, Director of the Office of Aerospace for the Washington State Department of Commerce. Space businesses also create jobs in the state's wider network of suppliers that provide parts and services to Boeing and the aviation industry.