Another engine rocket testing program is coming to NASA's Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant announced. SpaceX, a commercial spaceflight company, will bring initial testing of their Raptor methane rocket engines — the latest in propulsion technology, capable of generating nearly 300 tons of thrust in vacuum—to NASA's Stennis Space Center.
"With our rich history of supporting America's space program, the state of Mississippi is an excellent choice for this type of innovative testing and aerospace technology," Gov. Bryant said. "This agreement marks our continued commitment to our nation's space program and ongoing efforts to bring new opportunities to Stennis Space Center and the state of Mississippi. This project would not have been possible had it not been for the efforts of the Mississippi Development Authority, who was key in facilitating this partnership between SpaceX and Stennis."
Under a future engine testing agreement, SpaceX will upgrade the E-2 test stand at Stennis with methane capability.
"This agreement supports SpaceX's efforts for continued engine research and development in parallel with our growing operational testing programs," said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President. "We are excited to bring this R&D program to Stennis, and we look forward to a long term relationship with the center and the state of Mississippi."
Infrastructure improvements will begin upon execution of the agreement, with testing expected to start in early 2014. Once complete, the upgraded stand will be one of the most sophisticated high-pressure testing facilities in the world capable of supporting many potential users, and will remain the property of Stennis Space Center for future use as needed.
"We are pleased that SpaceX has chosen the unique capabilities at Stennis for research and development testing of their new Raptor engine components," said Rick Gilbrech, Stennis center director. "This is another great example of state and local leaders cooperating with Stennis to provide incentives that draw high tech aerospace companies to south Mississippi. Stennis has a rich history of testing rocket engine components as well as full scale engines and stages for government and commercial partners, and we look forward to this new partnership with SpaceX."
MDA is providing assistance, along with Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, for improvements to the E-2 test stand at the NASA site.
"Mississippi is a major player in the global aerospace sector, and the decision by SpaceX to begin operations at Stennis further solidifies that leadership position," said MDA Executive Director Brent Christensen. "We are pleased to welcome this trailblazer in commercial space flight to the ranks of industry-leading companies that have chosen Stennis to capitalize on the strategic advantages inherent in that location. I appreciate the support we have received from local and state leaders, as well as our federal delegation who have been critical to the long term success of Stennis as an important location for the development and testing of new technology."
For more than four decades, John C. Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi has served as NASA's primary rocket propulsion testing ground. Today, the center provides propulsion test services for NASA and the Department of Defense, as well as the private sector. It is home to NASA's Rocket Propulsion Test Program, which manages all of the agency's propulsion test facilities.