NASA’s Stennis Space Center gives SpaceX’s Mars plans a boost

December 16, 2015 – 08:12 pm

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches with satellites from Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla.., March 1, 2015SpaceX Falcon 9 launches with satellites from Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla.., March 1, 2015

To say that commercial space company SpaceX is ambitious is a huge understatement. Its space vehicles supply the International Space Station and will one day transport astronauts. It’s also working on ways to get launchers to land back on Earth vertically, like in movies of old, and creating new spaceships that will take colonists to Mars.

And South Mississippi is playing a major role in development of the next-generation rocket engine that will make SpaceX Mars trips possible.

It’s been a year since SpaceX cut the ribbon on its test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. Since then, SpaceX has been testing components for its Raptor rocket engine, specifically injectors and combustion chambers, with additional components ready for testing in the near future. In a typical week, SpaceX conducts multiple tests, spokesman John Taylor said.

Getting SpaceX to pick South Mississippi to play a role in the company’s future was nothing short of monumental. Mississippi’s top elected and economic development officials were on hand at the April 21, 2014, invitation-only ceremony to welcome the company to the Stennis family of tenants.

Brent Christensen, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said SpaceX “strengthens the state’s position as an industry leader in the global aerospace sector and demonstrates to the world that Stennis is an ideal location for aerospace companies with sophisticated research and development needs.”

The state of Mississippi and Hancock County’s economic development commission assisted in improving the E-2 test stand SpaceX is using for research and development.

“With the strong cooperation of Stennis Space Center, the Mississippi Development Authority and the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, SpaceX was able to begin testing at its facility within months of signing its agreement with NASA and Stennis Space Center, ” said Taylor.

Landing a SpaceX operation at SSC earned the Port and Harbor Commission the top economic development award from the Mississippi Economic Development Council.

Ashley Edwards, HCPHC executive director, called SpaceX one of the most innovative and exciting companies in the world and just the caliber of world-class companies the county is recruiting.

“We are diligently working with SpaceX to grow their footprint in Hancock County and solidify their Stennis Space Center operation as one of their leading locations for the company’s future, ” Edwards said.

SpaceX is developing the methane-fueled Raptor as a reusable engine for a heavy-lift launch vehicle. SpaceX’s goal is to reach Mars in the next 15 or so years. It’s the latest in the fast-moving history of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., founded 13 years ago by Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and CEO of Tesla Motors.


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