SpaceX to test rocket engine at Stennis; administrator praises workers

spacex_defaultHANCOCK COUNTY — Private space exploration firm SpaceX will test a methane fueled rocket engine at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.

State and federal officials made the announcement today.

Mississippi will spend $500,000 and NASA will spend $600,000 to help upgrade a rocket test stand so it can use methane to fuel SpaceX’s Raptor engine.

SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., is supposed to begin testing in 2014

Mississippi Development Authority spokesman Jeff Rent says the testing could support a handful of jobs, but is important because it could make Stennis more attractive to other private users. The facility will be owned by NASA.

Rolls Royce Group PLC recently opened a $50 million facility to test jet airplane engines at Stennis, with plans to hire up to 35 people.

In a related item, NASA administrator Charles Bolden visited Stennis Space Center yesterday to welcome employees back to work after the U.S. government shutdown and thank them for their ongoing commitment to the nation’s space program.

Bolden held separate meetings with Stennis and NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) employees. At Stennis, he also toured the B-2 Test Stand, which is being prepared to test the core stage of NASA’s new Space Launch System.

“Stennis continues to demonstrate that the road to space goes through Mississippi,” Bolden said. “I applaud the center’s continued work to help bring about a new era of exploration through its commercial partnerships and the ongoing essential work it does for us in testing new propulsion systems. I also salute the personnel of the NASA Shared Services Center, housed at Stennis, for the superb contingency support they provided the agency during the recent government shutdown.  It’s my pleasure to visit the Stennis and NSSC workforces and thank them for holding the fort during the shutdown and ensuring our forward progress.”

Stennis employees returned to work Oct. 17 following a 16-day furlough.

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